Give credit where it is due to the production team of “Bad Cinderella.” They found a way to justify asking critics to delay publishing their reviews of the show until midnight on opening night by invoking Cinderella’s midnight curfew to return from the prince’s ball – at which point Cinderella (and the show itself) may very well transform into rags and pumpkins. Hopefully the opening night party will have ended by then.
Now for the obvious question you’ve all been waiting for: does “Bad Cinderella,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new Cinderella musical, live up to its title (which is actually refers to how this version of Cinderella is disliked outsider)? In order words, is “Bad Cinderella” in fact bad?
Well, “Bad Cinderella” (which was originally titled simply “Cinderella” when it premiered in London, which might have caused some consumer confusion) is splashy, campy, lightweight, overcharged, strident, and slight. If not necessarily bad, “Bad Cinderella” (which often feels like “Cinderella” combined with “Shrek” and “Clueless”) isn’t exactly great either.
Say what you will about Lloyd Webber as a composer, but his most successful shows (i.e. those spanning the era between “Joseph” and “Phantom”) are conceptually bold and original. With that in mind, one can only guess as to what made Lloyd Webber decide to write a Cinderella musical, which is probably the least original thing he could possibly do, even in spite of some modern touches, including a deus ex machina plot twist that saves the day and celebrates inclusivity.
As with “School of Rock” (which marked Lloyd Webber’s long-delayed return to pop-rock music, as well as his first hit show after years of flops), much of “Cinderella” is written with an eye for catchy pop anthems, including the title song (which is essentially a rearranged version of “In My Own Little Corner” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella).
For the first 15 minutes, I believed that “Bad Cinderella” was going to work as lightweight entertainment. But as the score (with lyrics by David Zippel) descended into uninspired filler and the book became stalled and drawn-out, I gave up hope.
As Cinderella, Linedy Genao (who receives a great entrance at the start of each act) is most persuasive in her vulnerable moments, rather than as a strident punk-goth wannabe. Jordan Dobson is gently endearing as the prince, who here is a weakling younger brother and Cinderella’s longtime friend. Neither has much to work with in terms of characterization.
The appeal of the show (as busily directed by Laurence Connor) lies primarily with the sumptuous and colorful fairy tale costumes of Gabriela Tylesova for the villagers and maidens and the wickedly over-the-top and scenery-chewing performance of Carolee Carmello as Cinderella’s stepmother. Many are also sure to appreciate the men in the chorus, who have gym bodies and frequently strut around with swords instead of shirts. The use of a turntable might also make one nostalgic for “Les Miz,” which played most of its original Broadway run at the same theater.
All things considered, it probably would have been a better use of resources to invest the money used to mount “Bad Cinderella” to keep “Phantom” from closing.
“Cinderella” runs at the Imperial Theatre. 249 W. 45th St., badcinderellabroadway.com.