Andrew Lloyd Webber, famed British musical theater composer known for Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, and more, returns to Broadway with Bad Cinderella in a reworked transfer from London’s West End. Webber’s score combines with David Zippel’s lyrics, a book by Emerald Fennell, and adapted by Alexis Scheer for a modern take on the classic fairy tale.
While a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s more familiar Cinderella appeared on Broadway in 2013, Bad Cinderella offers something quite different: in Belleville, where everyone is vanity obsessed, a rebellious “bad” Cinderella (Linedy Genao) sticks out, uninterested in beauty and fashion. This makes her a perfect match for the second-in-line Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson), who is forced to find a wife — you know the rest.
No Tea, No Shade
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have a RuPaul’s Drag Race Rusical on Broadway, Bad Cinderella is it. Like any Rusical, it has a simple, familiar plot, cheesy dialogue, overly dramatic acting (I can imagine Ru yelling “go bigger!”), a disappointing wig and costume reveal, a cast of caricaturish supporting characters and comedic cameos, a poorly written lead role impossible for the actor to sell, and an ensemble that features a chorus of “hunks” — Bad Cinderella’s shirtless, harness-wearing, fencing version of the Pit Crew.
While the Rusical always makes for a great challenge, audiences expect higher quality when it comes to Broadway. Bad Cinderella has budget and scale but lives up to its name in almost all elements. The book is messy, a clear mishmash of revisions; it goes on too long yet manages to lean too heavily on Cinderella and completely ignore several key elements of the story. The lyrics are perhaps the worst part of the show, almost laughably terrible and unsophisticated. Nearly every song is reprised, which becomes excessive.
What’s most disappointing, though, is the score. Webber is beloved for his sweeping, dramatic music played by large orchestras of strings and synthesizers, but practically none of his signature sound can be heard here. The majority of the melodies are simple, almost childlike, and mostly plunked out on piano alone. It is only in the underscoring, scene transitions, and the entr’acte that we get the full, lush Webber style — it is missing for the vast majority of the show (even though Webber did his own orchestrations). It’s telling that the song most likely to stick in your head (the title song) borrows its melody from Rodger and Hammerstein’s “In My Own Little Corner.”
Let’s Have a Moment
A lot of the show misses the mark, but there are a few key things it does right. Grace McLean (as the Queen) and Carolee Carmello (as the Stepmother) most embody the show’s over-the-top style. Costumed by Gabriela Tylesova in a succession of sumptuous ball gowns, the pair are resplendent. Though both put on somewhat ridiculous vocal affectations which mask their true talent, their duet, “I Know You,” is the comedic climax of the show.
In addition to the two mothers mothering, the other element that threatens to steal the show is, understandably, the hunks. Bad Cinderella knows what it’s doing, and fills the male ensemble with pecs and abs galore. This reaches new heights when the hilarious Cameron Loyal makes his late entrance as an extremely muscular Prince Charming.
The Last Word
In so many ways, Bad Cinderella is trying to appeal to gay audiences and become camp. However, as Susan Sontag wrote, art that’s intentionally campy is less satisfying. Webber’s disastrous Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies, is pure camp precisely because it takes itself seriously and doesn’t realize how ridiculous it is. But Bad Cinderella goes out of its way to be campy, which ruins it. At one point, Cinderella randomly carries a bundle of sticks (perhaps a reference to Millet’s often memed “Women Carrying Faggots”?); at another, a stepsister looks at her outfit and says, “It’s giving poor. It’s giving peasant.” It’s too self-aware, trying too hard, and it ends up feeling more like a reality show skit than a Broadway musical. Alas, the shoe doesn’t fit. Sashay away.
Bad Cinderella plays on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre.
Yeah no thanks. Every review Ive read about this pustule has been heinous and every press picture makes it look like a HS production. Pass.