The new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Bad Cinderella is, unfortunately, not a very good musical. The show had a fitful run on the London stage before being reworked and renamed for Broadway. The central problem is the book by Alexis Scheer. It lacks an abundance of humor and wit. Most of the characters are two-dimensional and unlikeable. There are some puzzling plot points, especially with the Fairy Godmother, if that’s what she is. Cinderella’s transformation into a stunning woman is, it seems, through invasive cosmetic surgery. Her Godmother warns her to be back by midnight, but why? There’s no magical ramification for the deadline. At the end of the show, Cinderella seeks to stop her Prince from marrying. She complains to one of her evil stepsisters that she can’t make it in time because the church is miles away. “Well, you better start running.” And, poof, off Cinderella heads off-stage on her 5K run.
The story unfolds in the town of Belleville where the women are beautiful and the men self-glorious hunks - as told in the song “Buns ‘n’ Roses/Beauty is Our Duty.” Bad Cinderella is not like the rest of the townsfolk. She has a streetwise fashion sense and is B-A-D, even though besides defacing a statue of the missing Prince Charming (he has been AWOL for a long time, presumably killed while battling a dragon) she doesn’t seem that bad or rebellious. A more apt description is misunderstood and abused by her Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters. The bubbleheaded Queen wants to ensure a smooth succession to the throne so decides her other son, Prince Sebastian, needs to find a bride pronto and hastily organizes a ball so he can choose from all the women in the land. Will it be one of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters? Did I mention that Cinderella and Sebastian were childhood friends? Not sure how that could have happened. He’s a prince. She’s a commoner. It’s never explained.
Leading up to the high-flying gala there is angst. There are trials and tribulations by the central characters. There is underhanded scheming, heartache and misery. Surprises abound. [Spoiler Alert - Prince Charming is not really dead]. Did I say this was a musical comedy? In the end, everything gets sorted…kinda.
The score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel, while unremarkable at best, does include a few notable songs. There are a couple of beautiful power ballads sung by Bad Cinderella (Linedy Genao) - “Easy to Be Me,” “I Know I Have a Heart (Because You Broke It)” and the title number. Prince Sebastian’s (Jordan Dobson) melancholy number - “Only You, Lonely You” is a lovely tune. There is also a quite amusing comedic duet between the Queen (Grace McLean) and the Evil Stepmother (Carolee Carmello) - “I Know You.” One additional note - while the performers are properly miked, the orchestra’s music blares. In fact, in all my years of attending musicals, I have never heard a louder sound emanating from the pit.
The two leads – Linedy Genao as Bad Cindrella and Jordan Dobson as Prince Sebastian – still early in their Broadway careers, are likable in an undynamic way. The chemistry between them is more playful, then romantic. The veteran musical theater performer Carolee Carmello steals the show as the Evil Stepmother. She can be over-the-top in her histrionics, but also coy and coquettish. Like her turn in this season’s revival of 1776, she is the best part of the show.
Director Laurence Connor brings an uptempo pacing to the production. A few of the more populated scenes come across as somewhat overstuffed with schtick that provides more groans than humor. Conversely, the intimate parts of the show, where a performer is emoting on stage, seem empty. He finely incorporates Gabriela Tylesova’s fanciful scenic designs - her large scale, forested set pieces are haunting and impressive. Ms. Tylesova, who doubles as costume designer, provides a variety of looks - from valley girl chic to frilly ball gowns to leather clad machismo. JoAnn M. Hunter’s choreography is vigorous, but at times curiously obtrusive.
Bad Cinderella, a misfire, playing at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway.