Bad Cinderella

Chances are, if one names a famous artist with a large body of work, certain stylistic fingerprints will come to mind. It is the horns of Hans Zimmer, the straight forward story presentation of Wes Anderson, Adele’s vocals, Thomas Kinkade’s use of light, or any other of your favorite creators. 

What comes to mind when you hear the name Andrew Lloyd Webber? Perhaps you think of soaring vocals and dramatic belted ballads. Or you may consider the peculiar artistic choices that seem to grace each of his musicals (think of Potapher’s wife in Joseph or the Phantom’s patriarchal stalker vibe). For some, everything he touches is gold, and so he is one of Broadway’s best bets for a decent showing of fans. (Phantom of the Opera holds how many records now?) 

Yet, Sir Webber is not the only major contributor in this production. Emerald Fennell  (Promising Young Woman, “Killing Eve”) wrote the story, Tony Award® winner David Zippel (City of Angels) provided the lyrics. Joann M. Hunter (School of Rock) created the choreography, while Laurence Conner (Les Misérables, School of Rock) directed the show. Three time Tony Award® nominee Carolee Carmelo plays the stepmother (Parade, Scandalous, and Lestadt) and Linedy Genao comes in as the first Broadway Latina lead to originate a leading role (following her work in Dear Evan Hansen and On Your Feet!). Prince Sebastian was played by Jordan Dobson (who played Orpheus in Hadestown, a personal favorite).

Though our family does not fall into the fanboy/fangirl category for any of these individuals, expectations were high going into the performance. And we were definitely excited to see a different take on Cinderella after Disney’s live action remake. 

So off to Broadway we went to see Bad Cinderella*. We arrived early at the Imperial Theater in New York City, and lined up on the West side of the building to go through security. Doors open a half hour before the show and the cue line started to get long about fifty minutes before showtime. 

We made our way to our seats. Around the theatre, bird sounds and mild musical motifs played lightly, giving off the same ambiance one would expect if transported into a fairy tale kingdom. A closer look at the stage framing revealed spiders, crickets, and beetles (or are those cockroaches?) at the base of the picturesque vines and plant framing. Occasional thorny vines also contributed to the foreshadowing that all might not be right in this tale. 

In the exceptionally beautiful kingdom of Belleville, the fields are idyllic, the prince is charming, and the townsfolk are ravishing. Only one stubborn peasant stands in the way of absolute perfection: Cinderella. To the flawless residents and royals of Belleville, this damsel IS the distress.

We won’t spoil the plot for you, but imagine if Cinderella received a rom-com reimagining by Mel Brooks, Neal Patrick Harris and Adam Sandler. Plenty of innuendo and wordplay that cause us to recommend this for an individual at least of high school age.

Yet, the live orchestra continually impressed with their balance, pacing, and ability to stay in the pocket with the performers. The music really shone in this production. It has great hooks and catchy approaches to the material. The lyrics of the songs were less consistent, with some really impressive pieces matching well, and others feeling more like filler. 

Another significant highlight was the playful chemistry between Linedy Genao and Jordan Dobson as our leading couple. Their duets and individual ballads were some of our favorite pieces. He brought his seemingly effortless vocal talent to match her character-perfect tone in creative ways. The cast as a whole did fantastic, truly professional vocals and the ensemble provide creative choreography which matched the mood and message. 

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Act 1 ended with Christina Acosta Robinson as the Godmother belting a slightly disturbing song about how to become beautiful. There was a lot of poignant social commentary on the cult of beauty, plastic surgery, and the pressures some feel to achieve a fictionalized physical state of perfection. I appreciated the message of the shallow falsehood of this approach. 

The stage production crew and design added a lot to the performance and the second act added touches that improved the experience. We loved the set design. 

The conclusion left us looking forward to listening to some of the songs on the soundtrack and talking about the parts of the show we loved. For us, we will miss the staging, vocals, and orchestra of the live experience. 

You can learn more about the show and purchase your own tickets by visiting Bad Cinderella online.

*we were invited to facilitate a feature, all opinions are my own*

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