EMBARGO 12 am March 24/Friday
“Bad Cinderella” says it all.
Why, one often wonders while watching, would such a distinguished figure in musical theater as the incomparable Andrew Lloyd Webber choose to spend some of his remaining precious time on Earth in a musical update of a beloved fairy tale that (a) , has no demonstrable respect for the dramaturgical structure of the source and (b), comes with a rude and mostly tasteless sense of humor that feels woefully out of step with the moment?
It’s like everyone involved here is trying to understand high school kids and what they’re thinking these days, but Lloyd Webber, writers Emerald Fenell and Alexis Sheer, and lyricist David Zippel, even typically excellent director Laurence Connor, whose “Les Miserables” was better than excellent: everyone ends up looking like nervous chaperones telling complacent jokes at the prom and proving only that they can’t buy a laugh.
Once again, a new musical finds itself in the dilemma of trying to capitalize on the box office appeal of a beloved family title with that all-important “foreknowledge” without wanting to seem tied to an outdated tradition.
Sure, you can blow up “Cinderella.” It is a free country and the glass slippers are in the public domain. But the story was already subversive before it was touched. “Cinderella,” the not-evil one, is more than a title and a brand: it’s an iconic folktale rooted in class discrimination that’s been around since ancient Greece, for heaven’s sake, with versions emerging in Vietnam, China, and Italy. among others, although the Brothers Grimm added the more familiar elements, and then of course “Rodgers and Hammerstein” set all of that to music. Pretty deliciously so, too. Sigh.
What do all these versions have in common? A dark and modest commoner marries a member of royalty. “Cinderella” is an aspirational piece, a fantasy, something to grow into and then quickly exit, as fairy godmothers become scarce and the power structures of reality trample many of our dreams.
The first problem with “Bad Cinderella” is the title. Not exactly parent-child bait. The second is that Cinderella, played rebelliously by Linedy Genao as if she’s playing an amplified version of the “Juno” lead, isn’t some stranger who’s trapped in the sink and performing only for the birds. Au contraire. She has a stepmother (Carolee Carmello) and two not ugly sisters, played by Sami Gayle and Morgan Higgins. But Cinderella herself is, well, bad, depending on the title. On the rise, she’s already a notorious figure going around town defacing statues and other mildly scandalous affairs.
However, she already knows a prince, Sebastian (Jordan Dobson). Now he’s not Prince Charming (that would be Cameron Loyal), the stud eldest son of the Queen (Grace McLean). But Sebastian is the coolest guy, or at least he seems so for much of the show. However, they are still friends and could presumably walk offstage at any moment without the help of the Fairy Godmother (now just Godmother, played by Christina Acosta Robinson), the coach, the horses, or any of the other elements of “Cinderella” nomenclature. ”.
At one point towards the end of the show, Cinderella begins to obsess over her desire to be free. “When were you not free?” you ask yourself. “It’s not like we saw you scrubbing floors.”
Frankly, it seems to me that Fenell was much more influenced by dysfunctional British royalty than any omnicultural fairy tale. There’s a good deal of Megan in Cinderella, at least as seen in South Park, and Harry in the bland and vulnerable Sebastian, who even hints that he’s the “Spare”. That would throw in Prince Charming as William and, well, the analogy works well to the end, and I wouldn’t want to give away the big brother. deus ex machina options
Lloyd Webber has written a self-defined title number, which is catchy and Genao sings at the top of his lungs with genuine skills. There are a couple of ballads that his fans (which will always include me) should enjoy and a few moments of that signature Lloyd Webber wall of sound (eat your heart out, Phil Specter), which is a positive trigger for me from so much of my early interest in musicals.
But, coupled with JoAnn M. Hunter’s choreography in places, that’s about all this rather terrible show has on its list of positives.
For the most part, it feels like you’re watching a show performed on the wrong stage down the street: Gabriela Tylesova’s design has a lot of wavy Cinderella parts, but it all looks strange, somehow. Like attempts at comedy.
At the top of the show, you think you’ve landed in Belle’s town in “Beauty and the Beast,” but then you hear a song called, I kid you not, “Buns and Roses,” and dedicated to the remarkably fond of townspeople. . -buttocks of the dancers. All those guys were very willing to do this and one can only hope their checks continue to clear.