Synopsis: 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.
When Oscar Wilde famously said "I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms" one has to question if he would have factored Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest abomination, Bad Cinderella, into that statement. Zoom in on the picturesque town of Belleville mourning the
loss of their very dearly beloved Prince Charming (not dead, just presumed as he has been missing over the last year). At the unveiling of the statue the queen (portrayed by Grace McLean) had commissioned in his honored, the town is horrified to see it has been vandalized and they know who is to blame; ugly, anti-plastic surgery orphan Cinderella (portrayed by Linedy Genoa) whom they have dubbed as "bad cinderella." At the unveiling of the statue we also learn that thankfully the queen has a spare and introduces us to her other son, Prince Sebastian (portrayed by Jordan Dobson), whom the town views as ugly. From that point onward it deteriorates as the story tries to aggressively portray itself as a unique and thought-provoking retelling of the famous fairy tale. Complete with a song sung by the
queen and stepmother (portrayed by Carolee Carmelo) about how the two of them were sex workers and strippers as they hatch the plan to get Prince Sebastian to marry one of the step sisters.
There are a lot of sins one could point out regarding this specific production playing currently at the Imperial Theater. From a bland scenic design by Gabriela Tylesova to the book adaptation by Alexis
Scheer, there are a lot of faults with this production. However, the biggest issues are two specific areas, the music and the actress portraying Bad Cinderella herself. To start with the bad Cinderella of it all, it was, to put it frankly, a bad interpretation. The acting felt completely one note and brought the action to a complete and screeching halt. Many of the few good moments immediately were flipped completely by the presence of Linedy Genoa's portrayal. She frequently would flip into a forced Bronx accent that came and went, feeling moderately problematic and jarring as a character choice being made. The songs sung by Ms. Genoa at times were pitchy and featured her voice cracking frequently.
The music created by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by David Zippel is by far the most unforgivable from the entire performance. Each song was literal to the point of a rubber chicken smacking you across the face at a comedy would have provided more subtlety than any of the songs written for this show. The songs also ran about 2-3 minutes past when they should have, which led the audience's focus to dwindle as the song continued onward. Made doubly awkward by the fact 75% of the characters were deemed wholly transactional and had zero depth to them. The fairy godmother, plastic surgeon extraordinaire of Belleville, had exactly 1 song and 2 scenes total in the show, both of which were entirely forgettable and served zero plot advancement other than they are needed for the original story to work.
Now the biggest question is, what worked for Bad Cinderella? Carolee Carmelo as the Step Mother, Grace McLean as the queen, and Sami Gayle and Morgan Higgins as the two step sisters all delivered spectacular and potentially Tony nomination-worthy performances. The weak material did not slow them down as they managed to run with their characters and flesh them out as much as possible with the book provided.
Despite her set being lacklustre, costumes designed by Gabriela Tylesova were bright and colorful, breathing plenty of life onto the stage and making for a visually pleasing moment when it was a blank stage with an onslaught of the ensemble. Lastly, the ensemble was giving it their all. Each ensemble member knew exactly what they needed to do and leaned into the absurdity of the town of Belleville. The best moment of the show came towards the end with Cameron Loyal's character (role redacted as it is a spoiler) and the ensemble just going full tilt unhinged and turning the stage into a true celebration.
Unfortunately for Bad Cinderella, the bad far outweighed the good. With a show that had a poorly received run in the West End, it sparked confusion when the decision was finalized to bring it to the US, but felt hopeful when it was discussed that rewrites would occur. What was created instead was a show that was confused about what it was trying to be. It had a message to share about the idea of beauty but became muddled as it tried to be both camp and serious at the same time. With an oversaturation of stories adapted from the Original Grimm version, it's always going to be an uphill climb to stand out, unfortunately for Bad Cinderella, it stood out as one of the worst adaptations created. This reviewer loves a good bad show, but this wasn't even a fun bad to watch.
Overall, this show earns itself a 1.5 out of 5 stars.
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