First Impressions of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella

Cinderella Webber

Back in January, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced his new musical Cinderella. Performances were meant to begin in September 2020. A lot has changed since then, and the musical has been postponed to April 2021. Andrew Lloyd Webber has teamed up with Emerald Fennell (book) and David Zippel (lyrics) to create a production of Cinderella “like you’ve never seen her before.” Joining them is Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Misérables, Heathers) in the titular role of Cinderella and Victoria Hamilton-Barrit (Murder Ballad, In the Heigts) as the Stepmother. 

I was (and still am) a bit skeptical of this production. Cinderella is a story which has been adapted a lot, most recently for the stage in December 2019 with Soho Cinders. I am also a huge fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – it’s a timeless classic. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber has released two songs from Cinderella (both sung by Carrie Hope Fletcher), ‘Far Too Late’ and ‘Bad Cinderella,’ which reveal a lot more about this new production. 

‘Bad Cinderella’ is now available to stream on Spotify, so I have been listening to it. However it is not my favourite. I want to love it, I really do, and I appreciate the message it’s trying to put across; be yourself and don’t let anyone else change you who are. Whilst trying to deliver this message Cinderella also seems to judge all girls who are not like her, singing “solely concerned with / what you are wearing / gossip and shopping.” There’s nothing wrong with liking a bit of shopping. I wasn’t a huge fan of the use of the ‘In My Own Little Corner’ melody from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, it takes me out of the newness, and edginess of the song.  

What I do appreciate about this song is that it gives Cinderella a fierce and unashamedly strong persona. I hope this is explored more, instead of pitting women against each other, which is archaic and should be left behind with the original Cinderella story. I also am a huge fan of the idea that Cinderella is proud of her place as an outsider and reclaims the nickname that was given to her out of cruelty. I hope and think there will be more of this in the production. 

The second song ‘Far Too Late’ is definitely my favourite. Fletcher’s vocals shine. In this song Cinderella is lamenting that it is “far too late to sing a love song.” She is vulnerable, open with her feelings, yet strong and assertive. This is a new side to Cinderella and gives her character a lot more depth. 

Little is known about how this version of Cinderella will deviate. However, in a recent video released on the Cinderella youtube channel, Andrew Lloyd Webber discussed the setting of Cinderella stating that it is set in “the most beautiful village that you’ll ever find, with the most beautiful people you’ll ever see .” It is only when you look at this superficial beauty that things start to go wrong. Once you peel back the layers it seems as though this world will not be as beautiful as first perceived. 

This battle between superficial beauty and a deeper beauty is something that appears to be at the core of this show. This intrigues me, and does make me excited for the production. Fairy tales often come across as very superficial, those who conform to traditional beauty standards get their happy endings. To see this change can only be a positive thing. 

Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) is behind the book of Cinderella and in the same video she spoke about her desire to explore whether Cinderella’s transformation to go to the ball was a positive one or does she change so much that she is no longer recognised by those who love her. Once again this raises an important question for the original Cinderella story. We have spent so long celebrating Cinderella’s happy ending without looking at what that cost her. I really hope that this version is true to Fennell’s hope to investigate whether transformation is a good thing. It would be great to see a show turn the Cinderella story around and tell young girls that no you don’t have to change yourself to fit in and get a happy ending. Being true to you is just as if not more important. 

Fennell also spoke about making “the most cinderellary Cinderella they could, push it to its very extreme,”  in terms of the setting. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that we can expect a bit of magic and almost definitely a traditional fairytale village. Fennell goes on to mention the “real characters” they are going to put in this village to create a self-aware fairytale. I do think self awareness can be a good thing, and can create comedic moments. This self-awareness could go too far however, and remove the heart from the show. 

Having said that I am very excited for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, I really do hope it’s Cinderella as we’ve never seen her before – that’s a really bold promise to make from a story that has been developed possibly hundreds of times. There are aspects I am unsure of and my feelings on the music are mixed. However, it is so new, I anticipate that new announcements and releases will only heighten my excitement and make me more invested in this new show. 

In what has become an incredibly turbulent year for theatres, any piece of new theatre should be celebrated. 

Cinderella will open for previews at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in May 2021 and will then open in April. Tickets are available to buy from the Gillian Lynne website.

Words by Orla McAndrew.

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