Soho springs to life in this punchy reimagining of a fairytale classic.
From Mary Poppins to Betty Blue Eyes and, most recently, a flash-bang-walloping rewrite of the musical Half A Sixpence (currently playing at London’s Noel Coward theatre) the writing partnership of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have had a significant impact on the art of musical theatre in Britain over the past two decades. Yet despite numerous box office successes, the excellence of their work is often overlooked.
Soho Cinders, a modern-day rebranding of the classic Cinderella story, first premiered at the Soho Theatre in 2012 but ran for little more than a month. In its first big professional outing since then, a new production at the Union Theatre in Southwark ensures the heart of this story beats as strong as ever, and it’s as wonderfully entertaining as we remembered. With a hugely witty script and excellent songs, it’s a show that really deserves to be seen again.
Our would-be Cinderella is the lovestruck Robbie, played with passion and charm by an energetic Joshua Lewindon. He is the perfect hapless twink, glued to his phone and barely staying afloat on the rough waters of his complicated love life. Lewindon is great to watch, full of post-teenage angst, and with a cheeky smile that suits the part perfectly. His vocals are strong too, a modern pop sound frequently giving way to a wholesome vibrato that we could certainly have listened to for longer.
Aside from our leading man, the strongest performances come from the female principals. Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman are a gloriously grotesque treat as Robbie’s stepsisters. Parading themselves in wonderfully gaudy outfits, and achieving levels of bitchiness that would leave the cast of TOWIE speechless, this gruesome pair are the perfect villains we love to hate. Their ballsy rendition of I’m So Over Men is a delight. Strong support too from Emily Deamer as Robbie’s best friend Velcro, who is impish and playful with a lovely singing voice to boot. Her vocal ability really comes through in the second act, in a duet with Lowri Walton’s earnest Marilyn. The two women treat the poignant Let Him Go with honesty and the lightest of touches.
Joanne McShane’s choreography is stylish and inventive, performed well by a young ensemble, and musical direction comes from Sarah Morrison. The company vocals are strongest in the stiller moments, when the music is really allowed to soar. But overall the balance of song and dance is struck pretty well, and the narrative always comes through.
There is plenty to recommend this bright and youthful revival of one of Stiles and Drewe’s lesser-known works. It’s a touching story told with warmth and passion. Definitely worth a visit.
GT gives Soho Cinders at the Union Theatre — 4/5
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