SOHO CINDERS at London's Charing Cross Theatre
Luke Bayer as Robbie and Millie O'Connell as Velcro.Photo Pamela Raith

A contemporary rewrite of the much beloved classic fairy tale, Soho Cinders takes a new direction. Written by the multi award winning musical theatre partnership Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis, with music by George Stiles, the scene has shifted from the land of make believe to modern day reality in London's Soho district, and in particular Old Compton Street whose pinks and blues provide a background vibrancy on the traverse staging (Justin Williams, Jack Weir). Filling the space are the enthusiastic cast directed by Will Keith. In their scuttling pace and energetic dance (Adam Haigh) the bustling tempo pulsates and conceals beneath its vibrant veneer the intrigue, scandal and political unease that populate its every corner.

No glass slippers for this Cinders; think more mobile phones! Struggling in both love and finance, naive student Robbie, played endearingly by Luke Bayer, tries hard to beat adversity. In the true tradition of fairy tales he has found his Prince Charming in the handsome potential Lord Mayor of London, James Prince (get the pun) played by Lewis Asquith. But hold on there! Prince is engaged to be married to Marilyn (Tori Hargreaves) and to complicate matters further, Robbie's wonderfully ghastly and gauche lap dancing twin step sisters, Clodagh and Dana, played to perfection by Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman, are doing everything they can to thwart any chance of his happiness. Add to the mix the not so fairy godmother Lord Bellingham (Christopher Coleman) and the villainous misogynistic publicity campaign manager William George (Ewan Gillies) and you have a fair old melting pot of intrigue and complexity that can only be lightened by magic and a little help from trusted friend, Velcro (Millie O'Connell), a modern day Buttons figure.

Stern and Harman are an absolute joy. Each time they appear we know we are in for a treat. In comic panto tradition they are outrageous and loud, filling the space with their larger than life presence. Bringing the house down with 'I'm So Over Men' we take them to our hearts, despite the wicked roles they are playing. Similarly Ewan Giles as William George plays a fantastic villain and it is tempting to boo and hiss as he struts around barking orders and manipulating his charges. 'The Tail That Wags The Dog' speaks volumes and he sings it with power and poignancy. Of course there are emotional moments when both O'Connell and Bayer dream of being ordinary, with lives less complicated, 'Wishing For the Normal' and Bayer moves us with his touching rendition of 'They Don't Make Glass Slippers.'

With a score that holds so many strengths and exciting choreography there is much to recommend this production. Sure it is not pure panto and at times the more sombre moments feel a little flat, despite the efforts of the hidden narrator with his quirky one liners which raise many a chuckle. They may be wishing for the normal but in the world of fairy tales, we don't want that. Nevertheless Soho 
Cinders has a charm of its own with its catchy numbers and saucy jokes so dust off your glass slippers and have some fun with the cast at the intimate venue of London's Charing Cross Theatre.

Place: London's Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, Charing Cross, London WC2N 6NL
Nearest Tube: Charing Cross (and main line) (2 minutes), Embankment (2 minutes)
Dates: 24 October - 21 December 2019
Times: Monday to Saturday 7.30 pm, Thurs and Sat matinees 3.00 pm
Running time: 2.5 hours with interval
Box Office: 08444 930 650
(Phone lines open midday to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday)

Footnote: It is advised that 12+ should be the minimum age. On a personal level, I feel that it should be older as some of the jokes are risque and really not suitable for children.