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Edward Rubin

Bad Cinderella On Broadway

With a Latina Cinderella, Her Crazy Ass Stepmother, and Two Black Princes

"Bad Cinderella”
Playwright: Simon Stephens
Director: Alan Cumming
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street, New York, New York
Website: www.badcinderellabroadway.com
Phone: 212-239-6200
Opened: Friday, February 17, 2023
Closed: Sunday, June 4, 2023
Original Story & Book: Emerald Fennell
Book Adaptation: Alexis Scheer
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: David Zippel
Director: Laurence Conner
Reviewed by Edward Rubin

Grace McLean (Queen), Carolee Carmello (Cinderella's Stepmother).

Little did Andrew Lloyd Webber know when he saddled his most recent musical with the ill-chosen name Bad Cinderella that he was handing theater critics here in New York a cudgel with which to beat his latest Broadway production to a pulp.

And beat it they did, savagely so, to the point of forcing it to close at the Imperial Theatre on June 4, 2023 after only 33 previews, 85 regular performances, with a loss rumored to be in the neighborhood of $19 million dollars.

I might add, more or less, this same play, a retooled feminist version of the Cinderella fairytale then named solely Cinderella, opened at Gillian Lynne Theatre in London’s West End to mostly warm reviews after several pandemic-related stops and starts on June 25, 2021.

With a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, including two intervals, it played 33 previews and 85 performances, suffered heavy losses throughout its run and closed on Monday, June 12, the day after the Tony Awards were given out.

Lloyd Webber was roundly criticized for the manner of which some of the current and future Cinderella cast members learned of its 2022 closing via social media. On the same day as the Antoinette Perry Awards were given out for the first time in 43 years, since Evita in 1979, there was no mention of a Lloyd Webber play.

Not surprising, a snubbed Webber chose not to attend the final performance of Cinderella. Instead, he sent a letter, which was read aloud on stage by the show’s director Laurence Conner on its final night. It read “opening a new musical during the pandemic might have been a costly mistake but I am proud of what we did and will forever be grateful to everyone who supported me.”

Crossing the pond to stateside with cast changes, and 30 minutes shaved off the London production seemed to make no difference to it unwelcoming New York City reception, despite the hoopla surrounding Lord Lloyd Webber’s specially commissioned anthem ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ which premiered during the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III & Queen Camilla.

The New York Times critic Jesse Green hit the hardest opening his review with calling Bad Cinderella, “a surprisingly vulgar, sexed-up and dumbed-down: a parade of hustling women in bustiers and shirtless pec-rippling hunks.” Following up he wrote, “Finally, a Cinderella for street walkers and gym rats.” No doubt, this review sent Lloyd Webber into rehab.

In a certain sense, after the best theatrical season in years, this was New York reclaiming “The Great White Way” for themselves.

Linedy Genao as Cinderella

Though the New York reviews rang true on all accounts, Bad Cinderella with its mush-filled script that appeared to come out of a blender with the kitchen sink attached, JoAnn M. Hunter’s less than enchanting in-your-face choreography, the lackluster performances of the mostly dressed down Cinderella (Linedy Genao) throughout the musical, and the two Princes (Jordan Dobson & Cameron Loyal) it’s which no doubt has Disney turning in his grave, did have several memorable moments which made my Bad Cinderella visit worthwhile.

Jordan Dobson

One such crowd-pleasing moment, favorably mentioned in most every review, was the lyricist David Zippel’s delightful song “I Know You” smashingly brought to life by Cinderella’s Stepmother Carolee Carmello, and Grace McLean the Queen Mother of both princes.

This highlight of the show had both actors, hell-bent on getting what they wanted for their children, threatening to expose each other’s lower-class background and sex-worker experience. Reminiscent of Bea Arthur’s Angela Lansbury’s show-stopping song “Bosom Buddies,” “I Know You,” the play’s show-stopping diva duo, much to the audiences delight was reprised a couple of times. As one gleefully critic quipped, he could have sat through several more reprises.

This Carmello McLean scene-stealing number alone, should have gotten Lloyd Webber whose plays brought in countless millions keeping The Great White Way afloat for decades, a Tony nod for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in A Musical. Alas, neither a fig nor bone was tossed Bad Cinderella’s way.

I’d be remiss not to mention the actresses (Sami Gayle and Morgan Higgins) that played Cinderella’s two sisters. Cleverly costumed by Gabriella Tylesova (She also designed the set), they were oodles of fun to watch as they cavorted wildly across the stage. They too were an audience favorite.

Cast: Linedy Genao (Cinderella), Carolee Carmello (Stepmother), Grace McLean (Queen), Jordon Dobson (Prince), Sami Gayle (Adele), Morgan Higgins (Marie), Christina Acosta Robinson (Godmother), Cameron Loyal (Prince Charming), Ben Lanham (Claude, Master of Ceremonies, Duc du Violette), Josh Drake (Arthur), J. Savage (Gawain), David Schoonover (Dorian), Tregoney Shepherd (Vicar), Savy Jackson (Cinderella at Certain Performances)

Ensemble: Tristen Buettel, Kaleigh Cronin, Josh Drake, Jaquez, Ben Lanham, Angel Lozada, Mariah Lyttle, Sarah Meahl, Christian Probst, Larkin Reilly, Julio Rey, Lily Rose, J. Savage, Dave Schoonover, Tregoney Shepherd, Page Smallwood, Alena Waters.

Technical: Scenic & Costume Design: Gabriela Tylesova, Lighting Design: Bruno Poet, Sound Design: Gareth Owen, Hair, Wig & Makeup Design: Luc Verschueren, U.S. Music Supervisor & Direction: Kristen Blodgette, U.S. Music Supervisor: Davis Andrew Wilson, Music Coordinator: David Lai, Production Stage Manager: Bonnie L Becker.

Edward Rubin is a member of American Theatre Critics Association, NYC’s Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, International Association of Theatre Critics, International Association of Art Critics, Foreign Press Association, and PEN American Center

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