WORTH A LOOK?: ****
TRACKLIST: Buns ‘N’ Roses; It Has To Be Her; Bad Cinderella; So Long; Unfair; Unbreakable; Hunks’ Song; Man’s Man; So Long (Reprise); Only you, Lonely You; The Queen’s Boudoir; I Know You; I Know You (Reprise); The Village Square; Unfair (Reprise); The Godmother’s Shop; Beauty Has A Price; Fanfare; The Cinderella Waltz; The Ball; I Know I Have A Heart; Act 2 Scene 2; I Am No Longer Me; Moment Of Triumph; What Were You Thinking?; Far Too Late; Ego Has A Price (Reprise); The Wedding Fanfare; The Wedding March; The Ceremony; The Vanquishing; Man’s Man (Reprise); Cinderella’s Solilioquy; The Wedding Party; Finale; Marry For Love; Only You, Lonely You
With former Killing Eve showrunner Emerald Fennell at the helm in the year she won an Oscar for Promising Young Woman this Cinderella was always likely to be a radical reinterpretation of the beloved fairy tale – and so it proves.
We’re no fans of Lloyd Webber’s thinking some of his better work far too reliant on the one memorable song but there are actually plenty of new classics here to enjoy.
We were due to see an early preview of this new musical which opens at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London’s West End on 20 July 2021 but decided instead to review it on the basis of this album now and after our 28 July 1st viewing of it.
Fennell has reimagined Cinderella as living in Belleville, the most aggressively picturesque town in the world, with only the loathed titular heroine impervious to its charms. Her only friend, Prince Sebastian, has become heir to the throne after the disappearance of his charismatic brother, Prince Charming.
The comedic So Long sums up their relationship beautifully: ‘My life’s a living hell with royal duties, like shaking countless hands and judging beauties.
‘What a nightmare every day, such drudgery to spoil it. I get to sweep the chimney once I’ve scrubbed out every toilet.’
Those impressive lyrics are from the pen of David Zippel who co-wrote City Of Angels whose revival at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End was the last show we saw before the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020.
Cinderella was originally scheduled to open a month later in April 2020 and Hope Fletcher is impressive casting in the lead role after absolutely bossing the West End debut of Heathers which we saw on its Other Palace debut in 2018.
With Fennell writing the book it’s perhaps no surprise that there are a wealth of interesting female characters with Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre) as the Stepmother particularly engaging while gravelly-voiced, Laura Baldwin (Eugenius, Other Palace) as a stepsister and Rebecca Trehearn (City Of Angels, Garrick Theatre) as the Queen.
Although there are guest vocals on this album including Helen George as the Queen, Adam Lambert as Prince Charming and Todrick Hall.
Song Only You, Lonely You is sung by Ivano Turco’s Prince Sebastian and proves a neat reversal of the traditional character who needs saving.
The Queen’s past catches up with her in the form of the Stepmother in I Know You in a French-influenced folk song worthy of Brel.
We’ve always liked a villain and the Faustian pact of the pulsating pop of Beauty Has A Price provides some much needed jeopardy while nicely illuminating the idea that self worth shouldn’t be judged on appearances. ‘I want to be hot, toenail to lash, I’m talking blazingly hot like volcanic ash.’
‘But my pet don’t forget Beauty Has A Price. You will be in agony let me be precise. In this frock by 12 O’Clock you will be in torment. Go ahead, knock him dead, just be home at midnight.’
Hope Fletcher’s big moment is the soul-searching ballad I Know I Have A Heart where she U-turns and reverts to the path truer to herself. Or is it Far Too Late? Too much choice.
We’ll not give too much away about the show’s second half except to say that Adam Lambert is well-chosen for the showstopping, scenestealing return of Prince Charming during the Queen-ish, rock-heavy The Vanquishing.
Listening to this album has made us far more excited than we were for this new musical which has been much-delayed but makes us want to go to the Ball far more than we ever thought we would.