The one where Cinderella is set in Soho?
It’s 7:30pm on a Sunday evening and the Queen’s Theatre, which is usually resident to Les Miserables is sold out, absolutely packed for one special reason. The composing team that seem to be everywhere at the moment, and most recently brought us Betty Blue Eyes to the Novello Theatre are for one night, and one night only, performing a semi-staged concert of their latest work Soho Cinders.
The usual suspects are in attendance, and there is an air of excitement which raptures into applause as Anthony Stiles walks onto the stage. After a brief introduction to the piece the cast enter the stage to join a wonderful 16 piece band.
And what a cast they are! A huge ensemble built up of some of the fine young talent from recent graduations from London Schools, but headed by a whole host of guilty musical theatre pleasures all on one stage. David Bedella, Clive Carter, Beverley Rudd, the beautiful Hannah Waddingham, Michael Xavier and more flooded the stage for which for some in the audience was already too much to hold the excitement any longer.
Soho Cinders, the modern take on Cinderella and after a rousing chorus opening number entitled “Old Compton Street” you are quickly aware that this rendition of the tale is something very different. In fact it couldn’t be further away in terms of setting and Cinders renamed as Robbie, a hard working Law Student who has an unconventional way of paying for his fees… working a life as a gay escort.
The audience are guided through the story by none other than Sandi Toksvig as the narrator and she doesn’t disappoint in having some of the most incredibly one liners that have the theatre in hysterics. Robbie played by Jos Slovick is the boy who wants to do good, and contest his mother’s will, which saw him left with nothing and he highly suspects that his stepfather, and father to his outrageous “ugly” sisters had changed the will to leave him with nothing.
Slovick has great vocals and in particular showcases himself and the new writing well during a wonderfully poignant piece in the second act called Glass Slippers. James Prince, a candidate running for London Mayor is played by the dashingly handsome Michael Xavier, who is teamed with Hannah Waddingham as his fiancée are deemed the perfect status couple but all is not as it seems. Prince is very much involved with Robbie in a relationship that seems set to ruin his campaign, his image and everything in between.
The sisters, like in any rendition of this tale are played by the crass delights of Suzie Chard and Beverley Rudd, dressed to “impress” the duo are hilarious. Their scenes literally had the audience howling and at times each other. With a number “I’m so over men” becoming their anthem both actresses really committed to their characters, no matter how revolting leaving them with the audience at their mercy as they delivered lines such as “You’re just like a bowling ball you, picked up, fingered and thrown back down the alley”.
This new piece by Stiles and Drew with additional support by Elliot Davies, is very well observed for the subjects they are depicting. I am not sure what sort of life this piece would have outside of a London audience and to those without a prior knowledge of the Soho area, but for this it doesn’t matter. The pieces are all beautifully presented, and it was so rewarding to sit back and hear real string players in an age like in Les Miserables the orchestra is replaced by keys. “Let him go” moves away from the comedy and allowed the wonderful vocals of Waddingham and Amy Lennox as Velcro to captivate the audience in a piece Styles and Drew really have created a Musical Theatre classic.
The piece is not without work, in particular the book needs readdressing in Act two, but for an evening in which the profits went to the Teenage Cancer Trust it truly was a remarkable evening. A true testament to exciting British Talent and I really can’t wait to see how this develops.
If you missed the opportunity to see this one off performance, do not fear because the whole evening was recorded for CD which will be available in Dress Circle in the very near future.