Charing Cross Theatre
Reviewed – 28th October 2019
“despite being predictable to the end, the story flows as harmoniously as the ensemble singing”
The setting for “Soho Cinders” is Old Compton Street, a street that knows no shame, where theatre goers rub shoulders with prostitutes and local businessmen on their way home are having one last drink as they collide with a younger crowd arriving for their first. It is a world which never really existed but you kind of feel it might have done. It is London as we know it, but with a technicolour gloss coating that fits perfectly with this modern-day retelling of ‘Cinderella’.
With music by George Stiles, Lyrics by Anthony Drewe and book by Drewe and Elliot Davis, the classic fable is given a satirical twist with a plot that is, in turns, comedic, romantic and serious. The mix of politics, scandal and true love is flawlessly balanced so that, despite being predictable to the end, the story flows as harmoniously as the ensemble singing.
Young, impoverished student Robbie is ‘Cinderella’, scraping a meagre living in his late mother’s laundrette, but facing eviction from his ‘ugly’ stepsisters who run the strip club next door. He just gets by with the occasional pay off from a local ‘Lord’, but when he begins a secret liaison with the already engaged Mayoral candidate, he looks set to lose everything. And everyone. Luke Bayer captivates as Robbie, having us rooting for him throughout. When he sings “Happy ever afters always turn out wrong”, we both wish and know that he’ll be proven wrong and he’ll find his prince. Part of me, however, wishes he would straighten up and fall for his co-worker and best-friend ‘Velcro’. Millie O’Connell imbues Velcro with a warmth, loyalty and irreverent wisdom that makes it one of the stand-out performances.
The show stealers are surely Clodagh and Dana, the stepsisters, though they do have a head start. Davis’ script is overflowing with brilliant one liners and these sisters have the lion’s share of them. Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman certainly make a meal of them too with unforgettably hilarious performances. But each character is given their moment to shine, while the ensemble highlights Adam Haigh’s dynamic choreography. Stiles and Drewe’s eclectic score is a catchy mix of ballads, duets and showstoppers, ranging from the achingly beautiful “They Don’t Make Glass Slippers” through to the fiery “I’m So Over Men”, which is reprised with a clever double-entendre re-interpretation of its title.
“Soho Cinders” is a musical with a heart full of passion and a belly full of laughs. As the nights draw in and the cold fronts approach the city, this show will certainly reignite the cinders and leave you with a feeling of warmth. The moral of the fairy-tale is in plain sight, but it doesn’t quench the enjoyment. This incredibly talented cast have as much fun as the audience. An audience who will still be humming the tunes way after midnight. Go! You’ll have a ball.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Pamela Raith
Charing Cross Theatre until 21st December
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Producers have announced the cast for the world premiere of a spanking new version of the Tim Rice musical comedy Blondel.
Following the trials and triumphs of an ambitious minstrel in King Richard the Lionheart’s court, Blondel will get its London premiere at the Union Theatre from Wednesday 21 June – Saturday 15 July.
Connor Arnold has been cast in the title role as Blondel. Connor is a 2016 graduate from Mountview Academy Of Theatre Arts. He recently played The Pardoner on a European tour of Canterbury Tales. His previous credits include Silent Witness (BBC1) and Catch Me at the Arts Theatre.
The rest of the cast features: Courtney Bowman (Winner Stephen Sondheim Performer of The Year 2016, she’s just played Fatimah in the acclaimed new musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Sheffield Crucible); Michael Burgen (Patsy, Spamalot, West End, Samuel, The All-Male Pirates of Penzance, UK Tour); Lauren Byrne (recently in the UK tour of Sunny Afternoon as first cover Rasa); David Fearn (A Christmas Carol, Lyceum Theatre); Ryan Hall (making his professional debut after graduating from Mountview); Oliver Marshall (has just played Rumbold in Forty Years On at Chichester Festival Theatre; Dog Boy in the musical Side Show, Southwark Playhouse); Jessie May (Regina in Rock of Ages, UJK toourt, Sophie, Mamma Mia!, West End); Katie Meller (Billie Trix in Closer to Heaven, Union Theatre, The Phantom of the Opera, West End); Calum Melville (featured soloist, Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton at the Royal Albert Hall); Neil Moors (Caiaphas, Jesus Christ Superstar, UK Tour, Pirate King, The All-Male Pirates of Penzance, UK Tour); Craig Nash (currently in 110 in the Shade, Ye Olde Rose and Crown, Mark Cohen in Rent); Michaela Stern (Soho Cinders, Union Theatre, You Won’t Succeed on Broadway, If You Don’t Have Any Jews, international tour); James Thackeray (Compliance, Theatre503, A Haunting, King’s Head Theatre); Jay Worthy (Call Me Madam, Little Shop of Horrors, Parade).
Tim Rice said:
“I’m delighted Blondel is returning to the stage. It was one of the most enjoyable projects of my career, and I’ve always felt Stephen Oliver’s wonderful music deserved a larger audience than it reached back in 1983 when the show first ran. I hope this new production at the terrific Union Theatre will please old fans and find some new ones.”
Blondel has lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Stephen Oliver. The book is by Tom Williams and Tim Rice, with additional music by Mathew Pritchard.
Creative team: Director Sasha Regan. Choreographer Chris Whittaker. Musical Director Simon Holt. Designer Ryan Dawson Laight. Lighting Designer Iain Dennis. Music Co-ordinator Pete Hobbs. Assistant MD Oliver George Rew. Casting Adam Braham Casting.
Producers Aaron Rogers & Sasha Regan for Union Theatre, Donald Rice for Heartaches Limited.
Wednesday 21 June – Saturday 15 July
Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2.30pm
Ticket prices: £25/£22.50 | £20 previews
lyrics by Tim Rice
book by Tom Williams & Tim Rice
music by Stephen Oliver
additional music by Mathew Pritchard
directed by Sasha Regan
Old Union Arches,
229 Union Street,
London SE1 0LR
Box Office: 020 7261 9876