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Stuart King

Review: SOHO CINDERS at Charing Cross Theatre

Soho Cinders The Cinderella story gets a gay makeover courtesy of long-time musical collaborators George Stiles and Anthony Drewe and is set to amuse and entertain patrons of the Charing Cross Theatre until Christmas.

Their show dates from 2011 and purports to be a mix of naughty sex scandals, politics and true love, but is this just another Christmas show vying for an audience, or can theatregoers expect something considerably more substantial from the Olivier award winners?

At its centre, a poor lad Robbie (Luke Bayer) who works in a laundrette with his best friend Velcro (Millie O’Connell) manages to find himself romantically involved with a London mayoral candidate - we don’t need to know how, or why this came about, apparently. His mother is dead, his step-father’s thankfully in prison and his step-sisters are the sort of characters who need no encouragement to display the worst excesses of crassness and villainy. With such an outline, the audience is left in little doubt who they are meant to root for, but as with all fairy stories (especially when presented in a modern setting) there are some juicy grey areas.

James Prince (Lewis Asquith as the mayoral candidate love interest) has the height of a matinee idol and the sort of beautifully floated tenor vibrato which melts hearts. His serene and patient fiancé (Tori Hargreaves) displays the stoic resolve, dignity and good grace of a woman wronged by her lover’s infidelity and their songs together possess real pathos.

The true villain of the piece is a Dominic Cummings-esque campaign manager William George (Ewan Gillies) whose smug, self-aggrandising show-stopper The Tail That Wags The Dog is a delicious dig at politics in the modern age.

Understandably, most of the celebrity culture fluff lands in the laps of the step-sisters Clodagh and Dana (Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman) who attack every on-stage moment with the garish tenacity of a publicity hungry former TOWIE star trying to secure a place in the next series of Strictly Celebrity in the Jungle on Ice.

Director Will Keith in collaboration with choreographer Adam Haigh has done a cracking job with the cast in a relatively small space and on opening night, Sarah Morrison kept her musicians sprightly and attentive to the on-stage action.

This may not be the most sophisticated show in the West End, but if you’re looking for entertainment, energy and professionalism, it’s here in spades. And I would challenge anyone to remain unmoved by Robbie’s heartfelt torch song They Don’t Make Glass Slippers which shines a well-deserved spotlight on his talent as a singer and the writing skills of the composers.

Soho Cinders tickets