Soho Cinders ☆☆☆☆
Charing Cross Theatre, London
If you are ready for some traditional seasonal fun but not quite ready to go full panto until after Guy Fawkes this bouncing romantic musical twist on the Cinderella story has immediately likeable tunes that are show stopping in places but never stop the story. Each of the hearty musical numbers by George Stiles and Anthony Drew adds bounce to the shows contemporarily quirky characters or depth to the situations they find themselves in.
Soho Cinders is the story of tremulous twink Robbie (Luke Bayer) who is hard up for cash after the death of his mother. On the verge of being evicted by his predictably wicked step sisters he gets caught up in the attentions of the tycoon Lord Bellingham. Lord Bellingham (Christopher Coleman) is dropping bread crumbs of cash for Robbie with the expectation that he will fall into a gilded bear trap. Meanwhile Robbie’s heart has been claimed by the closeted candidate for mayor James Prince (Lewis Asquith) who is campaigning on a platform of honesty whilst lying to his wife.
Evil lurks from all directions. In addition to Lord Bellingham there is the Machiavellian spin doctor William George (Ewan Gillies) who wants to move from being the power behind the thrown to the one enjoying its cushion. But the ballsy, ballistic and bosomy beating hearts of evil are the wonderfully wicked stepsisters played by Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman. With some of the most memorable and rousing songs these drunken horny slappers and strip club entrepreneurs are saltily lauded as bowling balls because they are “Picked up. Fingered. And thrown back down the alley”. Their two main songs ‘I’m so over men’ in the first act and the ode to fleeting fame of ‘Fifteen minutes’ are as loud, lewd and legendary as drag queens ordering a sausage sandwich.
Luke Bayer is a wide-eyed puppy as the male Cinderella but then gives a knockout rendition of “They Don’t Make Glass Slippers” which is surprising for its power and intensity. The show lacks an early big song between Robbie and his Prince that would have us rooting for them as a couple but with this song the heartbreak gets real.
Banking the audience on two opposing sides all the action takes place in the heart of the theater. It’s a small space for such a large cast to dance but tight formations from choreographer Adam Haigh makes great use of the space and the energy is often like a balloon on the verge of popping.
Soho Cinders falls firmly on the side of proper musical theatre even though it has some pantomime elements. While they add the fun, the energy and the familiarity there are also great original songs with narrative finesse and highly accomplished musical delivery that means this revival show has more lasting appeal than its holiday season scheduling.
Review by Andrew Hebden
Queerguru Correspondent Andrew Hebden is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.