Tag Archives: David Zippel

“Cinderella” at the Gillian Lynne Theatre

There were long delays to the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical. Like many theatres, the show is still troubled by Covid as my struggle to get a ticket, and a delayed start when I finally did go, illustrates. But the spirit of making sure that the show goes on is alive and well. Gratitude and respect to those working so hard.

First some praise for the clever typography for the posters. The e and r form a shoe! It’s a small point, but indicative of how much skill and thought is behind every aspect of a show that deserves to be hit.

Working for the first time with Emerald Fennell, who wrote the book for the show, says much for Lloyd Webber’s spirit of adventure. The name on a lot of lips after the success of her film, Promising Young Woman, getting Fennell on board to update a fairy story is a smart move. But let’s not forget how adventurous Lloyd Webber has always been. Success numbs us to the fact that musicals about Christ or cats are bonkers ideas.

The tweaks Fennell has made to the story are smart. A “bad Cinderella” stands out for not caring about her looks – in her hometown of Belleville that’s a crime. It’s when Cinderella changes her mind, colluding with a Mephistophelean godmother beautician, that things go wrong. A feminist slant? Maybe, although Cinderella finds no sisterhood in the show. But the female roles are refreshingly strong and undoubtedly make the piece.

Nothing to be scared of

It’s great to see such a confident Cinderella. She has problems, of course, but her strength of character powers the show. While Carrie Hope Fletcher has won praise for her performance, I was lucky enough to see Georgina Onuorah take the role and a great job she did, too. Gifted some great lines, the humour feel fresh and the singing great.

Rebecca Trehearn in Cinderella credit Tristram Kenton
Rebecca Trehearn

Surprisingly, Cinderella isn’t the most interesting character. Both the Queen and her stepmother have more fun by being a little frightening. Rebecca Trehearn is a monarch with a past who might be a psychopath. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt brings a touch of Norma Desmond to a deliciously wicked stepmother. The heir to the throne isn’t Prince Charming (that’s his missing brother), but a sensitive soul who leads to the show’s explorations of masculinity – and isn’t that a toxicity to be scared of? Ivano Turco excels in the part.

Ivano Turco in Cinderella credit Tristram Kenton
Ivano Turco

The lyrics, from David Zippel, are intelligent. He is a safe pair of hands who makes the libretto worth listening to, as it’s sophisticated with the odd, well-judged, crudity. It’s a shame his lines are witty rather than laugh-out-loud funny.

Most importantly, the music is good. There is something here for all, with lots of catchy songs and poppy tunes that please. More traditional, orchestral numbers add some romance even if they don’t quite match. Cinderella herself sometimes sounds as if she should be in a different musical.

Costumes and sets, designed by Gabriela Tylesova, are all very clever. The dresses are just outrageous enough to raise a smile and the ‘cut-out’ sets suggest spontaneity. The action is kept swift by director Laurence Connor. Best of all, by not overstating the effort to be new and different, Cinderella wins respect. There’s enough campy fun to please all. But there’s also a sense of integrity. The show is interesting as well as great entertainment.

Booking until May 2022

www.andrewlloydwebberscinderella.com/

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“The Woman in White” at the Charing Cross Theatre

If memory serves me correctly, the West End debut of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, at the Palace Theatre back in 2004, was a grand affair with ambitious, if ineffective, projections and a big orchestra that served a lush score superbly. For its first revival the music has been revised, by Lloyd Webber himself, to suit a smaller setting. As a result, the show joins a string of revivals that remind us how versatile the composer’s work is. This is a piece that impressed first time around but now it is a musical to fall in love with.

The Woman in White is impressively plot driven. It’s based on Wilkie Collins’ 1859 novel, expertly condensed by Charlotte Jones, with its Victorian morality deftly handled to embrace current concerns about equality. This is a great yarn – a romance and a crime mystery that flirts with the supernatural – following the adventures of the Fairlie sisters and the mysterious titular character who has a secret that will change their lives. David Zippel’s lyrics serve the story superbly, even if all that exposition makes them occasionally prosaic. Director Thom Southerland aids the clarity to ensure we are entertained – with a staging full of atmosphere via strong work with the striped back set from designer Morgan Large.

For all Southerland’s accomplishments it is his cast that makes the show stand out – a particularly strong group of singers with exquisite control appropriate to the precision in both the score and the production.

Ashley Stillburn makes an appealing hero, as the Fairlies’ drawing teacher and love interest, who becomes a man of action when danger arrives. His rival in love is Chris Peluso as Sir Percival Glyde – “a liar, a braggart and a philistine” – full of charisma and danger. Glyde’s partner in crime is Count Fosco, played by Greg Castiglioni, who comes dangerously close to stealing scenes as he has the musical’s only light relief (credit where it’s due, for an Italian accent that isn’t just a cheap gag).

The trio of female roles secure more praise. The wealthy heiress Laura might be a little too wet but Anna O’Byrne tackles the role sensibly and gives her as much spirit as possible. Similarly, her half-sister Marian is one of those martyred women, beloved by Victorians, that can annoy – but in the role Carolyn Maitland makes her devotion believable and her sacrifices moving. Finally, Sophie Reeves, who plays the ghostly woman in white, delivers an impressive portrayal of mental illness. The whole cast tackles the satisfyingly complex storyline and its melodrama while singing to perfection, making this a clear five-star show.

Until 10 February 2018

www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk

Photo by Darren Bell