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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Bad Cinderella’ gets the title it deserves

An evening of desultory juvenile antics awaits theatergoers at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre

Linedy Genao is hoisted high as Cinderella in Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel's “Bad Cinderella” at Broadway's Imperial Theatre. (Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)
4 min

NEW YORK — Once upon a time there was a Broadway musical with the discreet charm of the Chippendales and the insouciant finesse of “The Bachelor.” And it went by the inadvertently self-owning title of “Bad Cinderella.”

What is a good “Cinderella”? Well, not one in which the looks-obsessed townspeople of Belleville sing about Bad Cinderella (Linedy Genao) not wearing beauty-pageant dresses and makeup — and then she shows up a few minutes later sophisticatedly done up. Or in which her fairy godmother-conducted overhaul includes silvery locks giving her the appearance of a character out of “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Or that features a performance by Prince Charming (Cameron Loyal) that is 90 percent pectoral.

We have a small coach-load of Broadway Cinderellas to whom we can compare the one dreamed up by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and company in “Bad Cinderella,” which officially opened Thursday night at the Imperial Theatre. (David Zippel and Emerald Fennell are the lyricist and book writer.) Two others, the Cinderellas of the recently closed “Into the Woods” and upcoming “Once Upon a One More Time,” previously in D.C., mean that carriages waiting to be turned back into pumpkins could be double-parked all over Midtown Manhattan.

“Bad Cinderella” is the cheesiest and crudest of the lot. Beefcake is the special of the day in fairy-tale Belleville, where shirtless he-men gather around the Queen (Grace McLean) like dancers in a Madonna music video. Save for the polished wickedness of Carolee Carmello as the evil Stepmother, the production staged by Laurence Connor and choreographed by JoAnn M. Hunter is one pandering, overheated conceit after another. The score by Lloyd Webber and Zippel has an all-too predictable supply of power ballads. Even the musical’s supposed moral, that looks aren’t everything, makes no sense when the actress portraying Cinderella is unarguably lovely from the get-go.

King Charles needed a coronation song. He summoned Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The show ushers in what’s shaping up as a peculiar spring on Broadway, one in which a play that was to begin in April, “Room” with Tony winner Adrienne Warren (“Tina”), abruptly shuttered in rehearsals and an underwhelming revival of Bob Fosse’s “Dancin’” formally opened at the Music Box Theatre.

“Dancin’” unfolds as advertised: It’s a revival of the anthology of Fosse choreography that was a hit the first time around, running for 1,774 performances from 1978 to 1982. Wayne Cilento, an original cast member of “A Chorus Line” who’s gone on to a career as a director-choreographer, took on the assignment of re-creating Fosse’s sensuous style. He has recruited a nimble corps that sings as well as dances. But somehow this choppy compilation show feels dated. It’s more drizzle than razzle-dazzle.

An entertaining extended tribute to New York City in Act 1 gives way in Act 2 to some oddly tin-eared sequences, including an arch interlude called “The Female Star Spot,” built around Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again,” that goes kerplunk. And a patriotic medley that follows, featuring “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” is as blandly perfunctory as a middling college halftime show.

I’d still see “Dancin’ ” a dozen more times than have to sit through “Bad Cinderella” once more. The go-for-broke silliness plunges the show continually into juvenile antics (though its crassness blessedly stops short of profane). The creative team could have taken a lesson from “& Juliet,” a far more enjoyably effervescent British import two blocks away, buoyed by the pop songbook of Max Martin and others.

It’s the difference in freewheeling romps between delightful sendup and desperation. One feels for the talented souls at sea in “Bad Cinderella,” including Genao, whose Cinderella is afflicted with a case of character incongruity: After defiantly vandalizing the town’s new statue of Prince Charming, she goes back to a life of sweeping her stepmother’s floors. You wonder why everyone’s on her back for being bad; she’s actually pretty cooperative.

Jordan Dobson plays along amiably as Charming’s younger brother, Sebastian, and Sami Gayle and Morgan Higgins are suitably shrill in the stock snarky stepsister roles. On such a desultory evening, you kind of wish that the makeover skills of Christina Acosta Robinson’s Fairy Godmother had been focused more concertedly on the writer’s room.

Bad Cinderella, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Emerald Fennell. Directed by Laurence Connor. Choreography, JoAnn M. Hunter; sets and costumes, Gabriela Tylesova; lighting, Bruno Poet; sound, Gareth Owen. With Tregoney Shepherd, Ben Lanham. About 2½ hours. At Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St., New York.

Dancin’, choreography by Bob Fosse. Direction and musical staging, Wayne Cilento. Set, Robert Brill; costumes, Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung; lighting, David Grill; sound, Peter Hylenski; video, Finn Ross; orchestrations, Jim Abbott; new music and dance arrangements, David Dabbon; music direction, Justin Hornback. About 2½ hours. At Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St., New York.