The writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe may be known for their smash hits in the form of Mary Poppins and Honk! but I think it’s fair to say that Soho Cinders falls outside of that same spotlight. A modern update on the classic Cinderella fairytale, Soho Cinders follows the story of Robbie (Luke Bayer), a young man trying to find his place in the world. He is being kicked out of his flat by his two stepsisters and is caught between his secret lover James Prince who is a closeted mayoral candidate and Lord Bellingham, an equally closeted aristocrat and ‘sugar daddy’ to Robbie. The only person he has to turn to is best friend Velcro (Millie O’Connell) who acts as adviser and confidant. Although the storyline has been edited from the original Cinderella, the plot is still predictable for the audience, with very few surprises to grab their attention leading to a somewhat monotonous narrative.
Much of the scene-setting is conveyed by pre-recorded narration which, while it may save on actors fees, completely disconnects the audience from the action occurring on stage. By separating scenes with narration, the show loses its pace and energy. This lead to awkward silences and a disjointed feel to the show as a whole. However during ensemble numbers, the stage (and auditorium) buzzed as the cast performed choreography which not only brought the energy to the piece but also that worked very effectively in the round. Particularly noticeable of these was the ensemble choreography that accompanied the song ‘It’s Hard To Tell’ and in the finale of Act I with the song ‘You Shall Go To The Ball’.
Within the writing, Anthony Drewe and Elliott Davis clearly had a ‘tell twenty jokes and one will be funny’ approach. Many of the lines met a murmur of approval from the audience but very few met the hubbub of laughs that was clearly intended. However the two comedic standouts were Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman playing the two ‘ugly’ stepsisters, Clodagh and Dana, respectively. They both brought excellent comic timing and broke free from their mockney accents with astonishing vocals, most noticeable during the comedic number ‘I’m So Over Men’ in which they hit the high notes with confident perfection.
Luke Bayer plays Robbie with a soft, warm hearted innocence however this innocence turns to irritation for the audience as the lives of the other characters crash down around him. This wake of heartbreak he leaves makes him a difficult character to root for. Nonetheless, Bayer’s vocal talents are undeniable and showcased throughout. His emotional and vocal climax is found in his rendition of ‘They Don’t Make Glass Slippers’ in which Robbie reflects on his life and hopes for a better future which he performs with sincere emotion. Unfortunately, Luke’s performance as the protagonist is far outshone by Ewan Gillies’ portrayal of the slimy spin doctor William George. With strong vocals and excellent stage presence, all eyes are on Gillies whenever he’s on stage.
While a key aspect of the plot are based on modern politics, it is astonishing how far the show falls from being relevant to politics going on in the world (and especially in London) today. Despite the fact that both James’ and William’s narratives revolves around the difference between truth, honesty and the public eye, the piece fails to hold any relevance or resonance to our country right now, especially given the turbulent political waters we are currently in. On top of that, the show, which presents a rather white-washed version of Soho, brushes over the evident sexual harassment that occurs within James Prince’s office which is seemingly meant to be funny. In these ways the show drops the ball at a point in which it could excel, and develop itself to a deeper level than just a crass musical pantomime.
Overall the show has enjoyable moments and a talented cast but is ultimately stilted by its poor writing, cliched jokes and predictable story.