Certain productions of certain musicals have their principal cast members (and even the whole company) belting at full volume at a given point or two. What is less common is the situation that I witnessed at this Charing Cross Theatre production of Soho Cinders, where cast members were holding back. I’m still not sure what to make of it: was it simply the method by which the production matches the sounds of the band and the cast’s singing voices? The downside is that some of the musical numbers aren’t performed to their fullest extent, and the upside is that the cast are certainly looking after themselves, which is ultimately no bad thing.
It helps if one has seen the production before: there isn’t enough distinction, at least not at the press performance, in the lighting between, for instance, Trafalgar Square at night and a laundrette in Old Compton Street in the daytime. Robbie (Michael Mather, retaining his natural Geordie accent for the role) harmonises quite brilliantly with Livvy Evans’ Velcro – their interactions with each other fit the narrative perfectly, best of friends but never lovers in a thousand years.
Seeing the production again (there were more than sufficient cast changes for a brief extension to justify an additional press night), I appreciated all the more the sense of humour that runs through the show – I think I was focusing more on getting my head around the narrative first time around.
Some of the customers that use the laundrette, Velcro muses, have sheets that “are so full of bodily fluids [she] could wring them out and start a fertility clinic”. It’s the ‘ugly sisters’, Clodagh (Michaela Stern) and Dana (Hollie Taylor) who steal the show, in both acts – ‘I’m So Over Men’ brought the house down in the first half, as did the eleven o’clock number, ‘Fifteen Minutes’, in the second.
With the 2019 General Election still fresh in the audience’s minds, the political narrative is topical, and I trust it is hardly a spoiler to reveal that more than one candidate has a skeleton or two in their closets. Small inclusions into current (at the time of writing) events make the production all the more engaging: when someone (it would be giving too much away to state who) is at a loose end, Robbie suggests there’s a vacancy for Leader of the Opposition, and his sisters namedrop Piers Morgan and Prince Andrew as public figures whose ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ are, they hope, pretty much over.
However busy the production tries to make Old Compton Street seem, your reviewer’s own experiences of it are far worse, to the point where one eventually finds oneself stepping into the road in order to make any progress any time soon. Anyway, new cast members include Dayle Hodge’s William George, the campaign manager to London mayoral candidate James Prince (Lewis Asquith) – the sleaze and spin of the character is well portrayed, almost with relish. Robert Grose’s Lord Bellingham seems rather less assured than a no-nonsense benefactor who holds the purse strings would suggest, though I was impressed by his dancing skills.
While not every lyric and line of dialogue has aged well since the musical’s premiere in 2011, some remain more pertinent than ever (because, y’know, in these modern times, it really is getting harder to tell “the gay guys from the straight these days”). A decent winter warmer, this sprightly production is a satisfying night out.
Review by Chris Omaweng
When impoverished student Robbie (Luke Bayer) becomes romantically involved with engaged London Mayoral candidate James Prince (Lewis Asquith), his lap-dancing step-sisters become the least of his problems! James and Robbie’s worlds collide forcing them to fight for their own fairy-tale ending. Celebrating London’s most colourful district and mixing politics, sex-scandals and true love, Soho Cinders is a deliciously naughty musical update of the Cinderella fairy tale boasting an infectious score with music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe with a book by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis.
As well as being directed by Will Keith, the production’s creative team includes: Choreographer Adam Haigh, Musical Director Sarah Morrison, Associate Musical Director Joe Louis Robinson, Set Designer Justin Williams, Lighting Designer Jack Weir, Sound Designer Andrew Johnson and Costume Designer Nicole Garbett.
Michael Mather steps into the role of Robbie alongside Livvy Evans as Velcro with Robert Grose as Lord Bellingham when the show extends from 23rd December 2019 to 11th January 2020.
Meanwhile, the new cast also includes Dayle Hodge as William George. He joins the previously announced Hollie Taylor who performed her first show as Dana earlier this week. Tori Hargreaves, Lewis Asquith and Michaela Stern continue in their roles.
New to the ensemble is Liam McHugh who joins Melissa Rose, Luke Byrne, Savannah Reed, Thomas Ball, Laura Fulgenzi and Jade Bailey who all remain with the show until the end of its extended run.
24th October – 11th January 2020
Mon – Sat 7.30pm
Thu & Sat matinee 3.00pm
12+/Parental discretion is advised
Running time approx 2hrs 30mins including interval