Friday, April 7, 2023

Bad Cinderella - Well, Yes It Is; But Only Mostly

Reviewed by Judd Hollander 

Bad Cinderella, the new musical at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre, is the latest effort from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. While the show boasts a very appealing cast, it suffers from numerous problems which severely hobble the work.

In the kingdom of Belleville, most everyone is totally obsessed with beauty. This is chiefly because of the fixation their Queen (Grace McLean) has with the idea. The Queen is also marking the end of a one-year mourning period for her eldest son. The much loved by all Prince Charming (Cameron Loyal).

Just about the only person in the kingdom who does not believe in the necessity of being impeccably beautiful is Cinderella (Linedy Genao). A young woman who has gotten the nickname of the title due to her various protests over the matter. Her most recent effort being the defacement of a statue of the late Prince.

Linedy Genao as Cinderella in "Bad Cinderella".  Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella’s one true friend is her companion from childhood; the Queen’s second son, Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson). The so-called “spare” of the family line who, now that his older and more handsome brother is gone, will someday become King. Though he must first choose a bride. To that end, the Queen decides to hold a grand ball at the palace and invites all the eligible women of the kingdom.

Cinderella regards this wife selection process as disgusting and wants nothing to do with it. Though a large part of her anger is because she has romantic feelings for Sebastian. As does he for her. Though neither has yet broached the subject. Someone who does suspect the truth is Cinderella’s Stepmother (Carolee Carmello). An evil woman, she is determined that one of her two not-so-bright daughters (Sami Gayle, Morgan Higgins) marry Sebastian. The Stepmother is also apparently aware of a secret from the Queen’s past. A point referenced in the musical number “I Know You”.

(L-R) Grace McLean as the Queen and Carolee Carmello as the Stepmother in "Bad Cinderella".             Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Bad Cinderella speaks to the importance of staying true to who you are, along with never sacrificing your identity to conform to the demands of the masses. Something Cinderella herself forgets when she tries to crash the ball. The story also contains a warning on protesting against something without first trying to understand those on the other side. For as she belatedly learns, Cinderella’s crusade against always looking perfect may have cost her more than one ally over the years.

While the show offers an interesting twist on a classic fairy tale, it feels as if the members of the creative team are never on the same page. A problem Webber, lyricist David Zippel, Emerald Fennell (original story & book), Alexis Scheer (book adaptation), and director Laurence Connor must share equally.

Jordan Dobson as Prince Sebastian in "Bad Cinderella". Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

An important rule in musicals is never musicalize anything that doesn’t need it. As in an early scene between Cinderella and Sebastian. Hearing them sing the dialogue rather than speak it throws off the entire sequence, and also takes up far more time than if they had just spoken the words.

Another critical issue when creating a show is knowing when to stop. In Bad Cinderella there is one pivotal scene which serves as the show’s climax. By the time it concludes, there are only a few loose ends to tie up. Yet for some reason, we have several scenes and songs to go. All of which cause the entire production to drag. True, much of the material here is enjoyable, but for the sake of pacing, it would have been better to eliminate it, shorten it or place it earlier in the story.

(L-R) Morgan Higgins and Sami Gayle as Cinderella's stepsisters in "Bad Cinderella". Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

There are also several plot points which are never explained. Chief among them is the relationship between the Queen and Cinderella’s Stepmother. There’s clearly a history between these characters, but after teasing the audience about it for a good part of the show, the matter is dropped. Also never made clear is the reason for the Queen’s fixation with beauty in the first place or how Cinderella and Sebastian, people from two very different social classes, ever got together as children.

Genao makes a lovely Cinderella. Her performance imbues the character with both honesty and determination. She also has a nice singing voice and good chemistry with Dobson, who does well as the unhappy prince. Dobson also gets to show off some excellent dance moves in “The Village Square,” one of the numbers that belongs far earlier in the show.

McLean is fine as the Queen, while Carmello has some wonderful scenery-chewing moments as the Stepmother. Loyal projects a strong sense of fun as Prince Charming. Christina Acosta Robinson as the Godmother has a good time with the satirical song “Beauty Has a Price”.

Linedy Genao and Jordan Dobson in "Bad Cinderella." Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The score, while pleasant, is not memorable. The music is also often over amplified, making it hard to hear the lyrics. This is particularly true in the opening sequence. Choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter is strong throughout. That and the costumes by Gabriela Tylesova are two of the few technical elements that work as they should.

Bad Cinderella is not bad throughout, but neither is it good.

Featuring:  Linedy Genao (Cinderella), Carolee Carmello (Stepmother), Grace McLean (Queen), Jordan Dobson (Prince Sebastian), Adele (Sami Gayle), 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), Dave Schoonover (Dorian), Tregoney Shepherd (Vicar), Savy Jackson (Cinderella at Certain Performances).

Ensemble:  Mike Baerga, Raymond Baynard, Lauren Boyd, Tristen Buettel, Kaleigh Cronin, Josh Drake, Ben Lanham, Ángel Lozada, Mariah Lyttle, Sarah Meahl, Christian Probst, Larkin Reilly, Julio Rey, Lily Rose, J Savage, Dave Schoonover, Tregoney Shepherd, Paige Smallwood, Aléna Watters

Bad Cinderella 

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics by David Zippel

Original Story & Book by Emerald Fennell

Book Adaptation by Alexis Scheer

Scenic & Costume Design: Gabriela Tylesova

Lighting Design: Bruno Poet

Sound Design: Gareth Owen

Hair & Wig Design: Luc Verschueren

Orchestrations by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter

Directed by Laurence Connor

Imperial Theatre

249 West 45th Street

Tickets: 212-239-6200 or


Running Time: Two hours, 30 minutes, with one intermission

Open Run

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