For their latest musical, composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe give us a 21st-century take on the Cinderella story. Elliot Davis joins them as co-author of the book, where the action is transferred to the heart of London’s Soho and Cinders is Robbie, a struggling teenage student who faces eviction from his humble flat above the launderette at the behest of his ghastly stepsisters.
Stripped of any supernatural elements and given the political backstory, the meandering similarity to the source work is a sketchy affair with several missed opportunities in terms of structure and some deeply questionable character development. Davis and Drewe’s book has some affectionate touches, giving a Carry On Old Compton Street taste to the proceedings, and Stiles’ score is easy if not particularly memorable.
A strong cast makes the most of this flawed story and there are some beautiful performances - most notably from Amy Lennox, who is utterly charming as the pragmatic laundry worker Velcro. Let Him Go, Lennox’s duet with Jenna Russell’s remarkably understanding jilted fiancee Marilyn proves to be the sweetest number in the score.
It is the broader characters that are so much more satisfying here, with Suzie Chard as Clodagh and Beverly Rudd as Dana easily the strongest ones in the show, working the audience into a frenzy with their outrageous vulgarity. Also worthy of note is Gerard Carey as the sly spin doctor William George, blessed with arguably the most satisfying musical number in the score, The Tail That Wags The Dog. Michael Xavier’s mayoral candidate James Prince and Tom Milner’s rent boy Robbie make the most of an unconventional romance but the story of these Gypsies of the Ether - they text each other a lot - is as saccharine as it is unlikely.
Designer Morgan Large’s impressive stylised set beautifully echoes the environs of W1 but his costume choices are a little lacklustre and anyone expecting a transformation scene, or magic of any sort, will be sorely disappointed.