After several delays, Andrew Lloyd Webbers much hyped new show Cinderella has finally opened at the Gillian Lynne Theatre - albeit with a reduced capacity audience due to Government guidelines. I had booked the front row for the first preview the moment they went on sale which was in March 2020 - before this website even existed. While some people had their tickets moved to a different night due to the reduced capacity, I was lucky enough to keep my tickets though moved four seats down.
In this post I am going to talk about what to expect from Cinderella but I have to make clear this is NOT a review. Previews are there to perfect the shows so that they can be the best possible version of themselves so to judge a brand new show on its first preview seems unnecessarily harsh and, to quote a line from the show itself, "Unfair".
Reviews will come out after the press night on July 14th - I may post more of a review after then but I expect changes will be made before then.
There may be slight spoilers about the unique staging of the piece so stop reading if you don't want to know!
Getting to the Gillian Lynne Theatre at 6.30 - one hour before the show started, the queue already stretched the entire way around the building. Not something you usually see that early! The queue moved quickly and everybody was in good spirits. While some Covid measures were in place, they were clearly less than most other theatres - disappointing considering how involved Andrew Lloyd Webber has been in getting everything moving. At no point did I feel unsafe but it felt strange to not see as much as you would at the Palladium.
Social distancing had to be in place for this performance, meaning the capacity had to be reduced. It actually felt like they had reduced more than necessary but this is probably because they were unable to take rows out so more seats were crossed off in each row. In the front row, I counted 12 people filling seats and at least 15 empty seats in the row. Next to me there were 3 empty seats. It feels like more people could have been in there but they did the best they could with such a short window to organise it.
A look at the merchandise on offer:
Before the show started, Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Laurence Connor came out to give speeches. Not as political as you might expect but a nice way to welcome in a brand new musical (though not the first new musical this year as some have claimed). Watch the full speeches below:
As you walk in you are greeted with this simple looking stage. The staging is where this show really shines with some clever tricks including a brilliant revolve.
A while ago, tickets in the first few rows said "You will be moved in more ways than one" which left people suspecting it referred to a massive revolve. Anyone in the first 7 rows were warned as they entered the theatre that their seats would be moving at the beginning of act 2 and so we had to be back in our seats before the end of our interval or we wouldn't be able to get back to them basically.
Act 2 begins and I have a feeling of excitement and nervousness like I'm about to experience a massive drop on a rollercoaster (Yes, I did just compare it to that). As the cast around the stage move on their revolve, so do we. The first 7 rows moves with the stage very slowly (You won't need to wear a seatbelt) until eventually we are at the back of the stage looking out on to the rest of the audience. There is no restriction on this view though as the cast play to every side of the theatre which takes on a new life in the round and creates more intimacy for everyone in the theatre, no matter where you're sat. We stay behind the stage for around 15 minutes before slowly making our way back. A very special experience which added to the charm of the show - if you can get seats in this section, I would highly recommend it.
As I said earlier, I can't review the show as it wouldn't be right. But I can say this - it has a lot of potential. I'd expect it will be a slightly different show by the time it opens on July 14th and for that I imagine it will be even better. What we have now is an exciting new musical which has all the ingredients needed to make a great shiow - it just needs to get the formula right.
The cast, as expected, are truly sensational. Carrie Hope Fletcher singing 'I Know I Have A heart' is as powerful as you would expect, and Ivano Turco is a true star in the making. Surely both will be nominated for Olivier awards for their performances in this. Also look out for a brilliant turn from Victoria Hamilton-Barritt camping it up like Margaret Thatcher in The Crown.
The cast at the curtain call:
I want to reiterate how safe everything felt and how safe it would still feel if the theatre operated at full capacity. I felt a lot safer there than I did when I hopped on the tube home full of rowdy, drunk people. While Cinderella was offered to be part of a pilot scheme by our good old trustworthy Government, Andrew Lloyd Webber refused this offer in the spirit of solidarity. In that spirit, let theatres open at full capacity. If 60,000 people can cram into Wembley Stadium to watch some people kick a ball, why can't 2000 people sit in a theatre and have their lives enriched?
Welcome to the West End, Cinderella. It's been a long time but it was worth the wait! Now let's get all these other fantastic new shows opening.