Watch: What Do the Critics Think of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Cinderella?'

Saturday August 21, 2021
Originally published on August 20, 2021

Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role of "Cinderella" in London's West End
Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role of "Cinderella" in London's West End  (Source:YouTube)

Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cinderella" began to resemble more a disaster movie than a fairy tale musical during its long West End tryout period. It began previews on June 25 at the newly refurbished Gillian Lynne Theatre with 50% capacity. But when it was scheduled to open on July 19, the £6 million musical was forced to cancel hours before opening due to a cast member testing positive for COVID. Webber even made headlines for saying he would go to jail rather than delay the show's opening earlier in the summer.


But it officially opened this week and it looks like Webber (who wasn't jailed) has earned another hit. His last was "School of Rock" which was a success in New York and London in 2016. He wrote a new song for the film of his mega-hit "Cats" in 2019, but said the much-reviled adaptation was "ridiculous." Adding, "the problem with the film was that Tom Hooper decided that he didn't want anybody involved in it who was involved in the original show."

Early photos of the "Cinderella" production, directed by Lawrence Connor, made it apparent that this wasn't going to be a retread of Rodgers and Hammerstein's popular 1956 TV version, which was expanded and staged on Broadway in 2013. The traditional 18th century look has been augmented with punk fashions and a male chorus of hunky, bare-chested men.

Giving the story a fresh twist is actress/writer/director Emerald Fennell, who made a splash last year with her Oscar-winning script for "Promising Young Woman" last year, which she also directed (an Oscar nom). Webber collaborated with lyricist David Zippell and director Laurence Connor, who had staged "School For Rock."

Carrie Hope Fletcher stars in the title role opposite Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the Stepmother, Ivano Turco as Prince Sebastian, Rebecca Trehearn as The Queen, Georgina Castle and Laura Baldwin as Cinderella's stepsisters, and Gloria Onitiri as The Godmother.

A scene from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cinderella"  (Source: YouTube)

The results largely beguiled the critics.

Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard wrote: "Finally! After multiple false starts and delays, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Emerald Fennell's sassy, sarky, musical take on the rags-to-riches fairytale proves well worth the wait. Cinderella has a terrific palette of songs, a snappy contemporary edge, and a star — Carrie Hope Fletcher — whose voice is both beautiful and powerful enough to knock down walls. Never mind the plot, submit to the spectacle: around a quarter of the audience will literally feel the earth move under their feet.

And in the New York Times, Matt Wolf praised the show. "The long-awaited show from the 73-year-old industry veteran turns out to have been worth the wait. 'Cinderella' is a big, colorful production, painted in deliberately broad brushstrokes by the director Laurence Connor, that turns a time-honored story (somewhat) on its head. The result may not be quite the theatrical equivalent of its heroine's cut-glass slipper, but it nonetheless looks set for a sturdy West End run. Best of all: 'Cinderella' is fun."

Chris Wiegand in The Guardian raved. "It adds up to not so much a ball as a blast: terrifically OTT and silly but warm and inclusive, with relatable, down-to-earth heroes and pertinent points about our quest for perfection and our expectations of each other and ourselves."

The British newspaper The Independent critic Isobel Lewis wondered, "So was Cinderella worth the wait? Well, yes and no. If this is your first show back in a packed-out theatre, you couldn't ask for a more visually impressive production. Gabriela Tyleslova's costumes are an enthralling mix of old and new, and there's a moment of staging that made me gasp aloud. The production is driven forward by high-camp visuals, incredible comic talent and an electric ensemble cast. But look below the surface — as is Cinderella's whole message — and you'll find something more muddled, a show that doesn't quite know what it's saying or have the consistent material to support its vision."

And Sam Marlowe writing for inews.com, put it this way:

"There's a lot to enjoy about this candy-coloured, panto-tinged show, with a book by Emerald ('A Promising Young Woman') Fennell. It has a sensational lead in Carrie Hope Fletcher. And it's spectacular, with fantastical costumes and a multi-section revolve that sends the front stalls, as well as the dancers, into a spin at the ball.

"Yet Stephen Sondheim's 'Into The Woods' more ingeniously deconstructs fairytales; Wicked has a more complex and impassioned 'odd girl out' narrative; and both have better tunes. Nor is this as snappy or as subversive as it should be: it takes an age to reach its conventional happy ending."