One would need to have seen a lot of theatre – specifically, musical theatre – to understand all of the references to other productions in A Very Very Bad Cinderella. In line with other pantomimes, it is very unlikely to be repeated next season – the writers will almost doubtless come up with something else that reflects whatever went on more recently. It is socially unacceptable these days, in most cases, to use the term ‘ugly’ – even to call oneself ugly is frowned on, because if one actually is ugly some others will feel awkward and uncomfortable, and if one is beautiful, those same others will insist on providing reassurance to that effect. So there aren’t, technically, ‘ugly sisters’ in a 2023 alternative take on the Cinderella story.
Fanny (Veronica Green) and – wait for it – Vajayjay (Imelda Warren-Green) are accordingly given more affirming descriptions instead, even if it is to the consternation of the Fairy Godmother (whose identity isn’t given in the show’s programme, but it’s a familiar face to many who keenly follow the London musical theatre scene), who thinks some of the ‘rewrites’ are questionable at best and unacceptable at worst. Keanna Bloomfield does a good job switching between Buttons and ‘The Prince’ (whether the prince is sufficiently charming to justify being called that appears to be left to the audience to determine).
There are various parodies of different shows in what effectively becomes a love letter to musical theatre. Much of the spoken dialogue also contains musical theatre references, with the closest thing to a patter song name-dropping as many different musicals as is feasible. Elsewhere, the Schuyler Sisters of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical Hamilton become Fanny, Vajayjay and ‘Cinders’, the title character played with appropriate grace and stoicism by May Tether. Cinderella’s ‘beautiful’ – inverted commas mine – sisters are booed and hissed even without encouragement, and while the storyline is, in broad terms, as predictable as night follows day, there are, buried in the details, the odd twist here and there that proves surprising, and not always pleasantly.
Not every punchline lands well, even with a knowledgeable press night audience. A reference to the presale for Hadestown, which crashed the theatre operator’s website, such was the demand for tickets when they went on sale, went down like a lead balloon. The use of video technology in the show allowed for, amongst other things, a parody of a scene in the current (at the time of writing) West End production of Sunset Boulevard, in which a camera follows a character through the backstage areas of the theatre. But it’s a while before Tether’s Cinderella gets to belt out a parody of ‘Bad Cinderella’ from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (you know the one).
Never taking itself too seriously, the production team is also lampooned, with remarks about budgetary constraints on the show effectively a tribute to the late Bill Kenwright, cost-conscious as he was. Kenwright bought this show’s venue, The Other Palace, in October 2021, from Andrew Lloyd Webber, the latter looking to recoup losses from… his Cinderella. I laughed heartily at this show, though it seems to rely on its patrons having a pre-existing knowledge of the West End musical theatre world. Then again, as ever, few attend the panto for the plot, and with just about enough call-and-response sequences, it’s a lively and enthusiastic night out. I’m not sure about it being very very bad, but it is very very funny.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Brace yourselves for this extraordinary ensemble gracing our stage this Christmas! The cheeky Christmas musical parody, A Very Very Bad Cinderella, is thrilled to unveil its full cast and creative team.
The cast will feature Veronica Green (Seasons 2&3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK) as Fanny, Imelda Warren-Green (Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder) as Vajayjay, May Tether (Heathers The Musical) as Cinderella, and Keanna Bloomfield (making her professional debut) as Buttons / Prince Charming.
A Very Very Bad Cinderella is produced by The Other Palace, written by Neil Hurst and Jodie Prenger, and directed by Lizzy Connolly, with set and costume design from Reuben Speed, lighting design by Jack Weir, video design by Sam Diaz, sound design by Rob Atkinson, and musical direction by Lauren Hopkinson.
A VERY VERY BAD CINDERELLA
THE OTHER PALACE STUDIO 1 DECEMBER 2023 – 7 JANUARY 2024 Written by Neil Hurst and Jodie Prenger
Directed by Lizzy Connolly
The Other Palace, 12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA