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Soho Cinders at The Union Theatre – Review

Soho CindersThis revival of the Stiles and Drewe musical Soho Cinders isn’t nearly as loud and hammed up as the original 2012 production, and will, therefore, be more enjoyable for those who like their shows to have considerable subtlety. Indeed, to begin with, I struggled to hear some of the lyrics in the opening number, but once my ears adjusted to the unamplified vocals of this largely young, 17-strong cast, the show hit the mark.

There’s some glorious choreography (Joanne McShane) that gave added pleasure to the Act Two opener, ‘Who’s That Boy?’, which continued even as the narrative became progressively darker. The full company numbers never feel crowded even in a relatively small performance space. In the lead role, Joshua Lewindon as Robbie has a smooth vocal, which occasionally struggled to be heard above the musicians, ironically in the softer melodies: he projects well in the bigger musical numbers. This minor point is more than made up for in a convincing portrayal of a character being pressurised from multiple angles – from James Prince (Lewis Asquith), a sportsman-cum- politician, from Lord Bellingham (Chris Coleman), who has hired Robbie’s (ahem) services, and from what I deduced to be his stepsisters, Dana (Natalie Harman) and Clodagh (Michaela Stern).

A voiceover narrator tersely declares of the latter two, “They are sisters. They are ugly.” The narrator came across to me as a cross between the acerbic commentator on Channel 4 Television’s Come Dine With Me and Rowan Atkinson in the title role of BBC Television’s Blackadder. The sisters themselves are hilarity personified, most notably in ‘I’m So Over Men’, which in this production ends uproariously in a borderline operatic sing-off.

The rather minimalist set means the show is reliant on book, music and lyrics to indicate time and place – again, the narrator helps tremendously. A few minor topical script updates have been included in this production, such that it felt appropriately up-to- date. William George (Samuel Haughton) is, fortunately, or unfortunately, a compelling antagonist, a love-to-hate character straight out of Armando Iannucci’s BBC Television comedy The Thick of It.

‘Let Him Go’ encapsulates the tumult of emotions felt by the betrayed Marilyn (Lowri Walton) and Robbie’s best friend Velcro (Emily Deamer). Why she ended up with the name Velcro is explained, albeit fleetingly, in the show, but I won’t spoil it here. This production has plenty of heart, and all things considered, I thought it rather charming. The lyrics are witty more often than not, and the plot so incredibly contemporary – for example, there’s a lesson for many people in today’s London to try to keep mobile phones on their person at all times, as the consequences of dropping them could be quite disastrous.

Over all too quickly, the storyline is tied up neatly in the almost ridiculous manner in which musicals sometimes do – and can get away with. The not altogether unexpected happy ending for young Robbie may have been a tad predictable, but no matter: the audience is able to rejoice in his reversal of fortune, and go out of the theatre having seen a more than satisfying and vibrant show.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

When impoverished launderette owner Robbie becomes romantically involved with engaged Mayoral candidate James Prince, his step-sisters become the least of his problems! James and Robbie’s worlds collide forcing them to fight for their own fairy-tale ending in this hilarious, satirical twist on the classic Cinderella story. The potent mix of politics, sex-scandals and true love come together in this contemporary musical with

MUSIC By George Stiles
LYRICS By Anthony Drewe
BOOK By Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis
PRODUCED By Sasha Regan for Union Productions

Director Will Keith
Choreographer Joanne McShane
Musical Supervisor Joe Louis Robinson
Musical Director Sarah Morrison

DATE 23rd November – 22nd December 2016
TIMES Tuesday to Saturday @ 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday @ 2.30pm


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