At last Cinderella shall go to the ball! It's Lloyd Webber's retelling

At last Cinderella shall go to the ball! It's Lloyd Webber's retelling

06/26/2021

At last Cinderella shall go to the ball! It’s Lloyd Webber’s £6m retelling of the classic — with the character in Doc Martens and fishnets. Now, after he said he’d risk arrest to let in a full house, ALISON BOSHOFF tells the story behind the musical

Already it has been quite the show, and the curtain hasn’t even risen on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-awaited Cinderella.

Thanks to the ever-changing Covid restrictions — dictating how many theatregoers can be welcomed to the venue — the £6 million retelling of the beloved fairy tale has been at the centre of an extraordinary political fracas.

For months the theatre mogul has been insisting he would open yesterday for press previews come what may, and he was prepared to go to jail rather than let down his audience.

But the ‘Freedom Day’ of June 21 was pushed back to July 19. Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to do ‘whatever we can to be helpful’ for the show. 

However, Lloyd Webber rejected his offer of allowing the show to be part of a scheme to allow some theatrical productions to go ahead at full capacity, as it would not have helped other shows.

He is to put on the production with the audience at 50 per cent capacity.

It’s a financial disaster and he reveals that he will ‘personally’ bear the cost. Sources indicate it’s likely to exceed £100,000 a week — possibly as much as £500,000 in all. But what of the show itself, written by British Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell?

Alison Boshoff reports on the musical that Covid couldn’t kill…

Already it has been quite the show, and the curtain hasn’t even risen on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-awaited Cinderella

Cinderella goes goth

Cinderella is a refusenik in a fairy-tale village where all the girls are size eight blondes in pastel frocks.

By contrast, Cinderella, played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, wears big black Doc Marten boots, with fishnets and black lace gloves and is scornful of the fairy-tale aesthetic.

Writer Emerald Fennell has turned Cinders’s home town, Belleville, into a modern version of the fairytale village, complete with a ‘witch-dunking lake,’ a ‘convent for unsightly women’ and a ‘nip and tuck tavern.’

Cinderella, played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, wears big black Doc Marten boots, with fishnets and black lace gloves and is scornful of the fairy-tale aesthetic

Fennell says: ‘Part of that is the world of the godmother, a sort of megalomaniacal, terrifying plastic surgeon-cum-couturier who has made everyone in that town look the way they look.’

Prince Charming has left town and his younger brother, Prince Sebastian, is the love interest. 

Fennell says that Sebastian is similar to Cinderella in that he’s always been overlooked, and that the romance springs from a point of friendship. ‘They have been friends their whole lives and suddenly everything changes.’

In keeping with her rebellious leading role, Carrie Hope Fletcher, pictured with Andrew Lloyd Webber, has spoken out in support of his rejection of Boris Johnson’s offer of help. ‘Yeah, I did get a few tweets that day going, “tell your mate Boris” and I’m like, “my mate Boris? What?” As if I’ve got a batphone!’

The glass slipper and Prince Charming remain, but gone is the idea that you have to change yourself for someone to love you.

Fletcher said: ‘I do wish this version of Cinderella had been around when I was 17, because I’d have been obsessed.’

Rehearsing in a bubble

The cast and crew have been in a bubble since March. Everyone who attends the Gillian Lynne Theatre where they are rehearsing has had to have a Covid test every 48 hours.

Technical rehearsals — with everyone in place and together — have been going on for almost two weeks. Leading lady Carrie Hope Fletcher observed: ‘We’re bibbidy-bobbidy back!’

Prior to that, choreography was initially done in a studio in Connecticut, with dancers at the Gillian Lynne Theatre and on Zoom working through pieces like the waltz at the ball.

Lloyd Webber said in March: ‘We just had our first run-through for Emerald. She hadn’t actually heard her script for the first time properly. It was an absolutely extraordinarily emotional moment for all of us because we were like, “Oh, my God, we’re in a theatre. We’re actually doing what we do.”

‘I walked off to the back and I must say, I did have a tear.”

Sparkles and castles 

Emerald Fennell’s script may be a feminist retelling, but there are still plenty of sparkles in this fairy tale.

Costume designers have fixed over 15,000 Swarovski and Preciosa crystals to the costumes, and more than 250 pairs of hand-made shoes have been created.

Costume designer Gabriela Tylesova commissioned custom-printed fabrics from Italy and the UK for the costumes which are contemporary fashion but influenced by period costume.

For the set, Lloyd Webber was inspired by the fortress at Carcassonne, France, although what has resulted is a ‘toned down’ version of the famous medieval citadel.

There are over 5,000 lights embedded in the floor and back wall. The set was built by workshops based in Plymouth, Cardiff, Tunbridge Wells and Cambridge. The back wall of the show is formed by a series of handmade ribs which give a sense of movement. There are 210 of them, and if laid end to end they would run for 2km.

The A-list fans

The show only opened to its first preview last night, but Fletcher has already found herself an army of fans. 

This week, she woke up to a tweet from Hollywood star Mia Farrow in response to a video of her performing one of the show’s songs. 

Russell Crowe tweeted the same video, seemingly so impressed that he simply wrote the words ‘Carrie Hope Fletcher’. 

Star with a pop prince brother

Carrie Hope Fletcher, 28, is an actress, writer and blogger — and the younger sister of McFly star Tom Fletcher.

Carrie Hope Fletcher, 28, is an actress, writer and blogger — and the younger sister of McFly star Tom Fletcher

She started in showbiz aged five, in a Honey Nut Cheerios advert. 

Like Tom, she went to the Sylvia Young Theatre school. At nine, her West End career began when she was cast in Les Misérables, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Mary Poppins.

She said: ‘I had a difficult start to secondary school, missing the first month because of Mary Poppins. Everyone knew who I was, who my brother was — McFly were huge by then — and had made their mind up about me. One girl made everyone’s life a misery, picking on insecurities. But that’s just teenagers.’

She didn’t go to drama school or university but wrote a blog and a self-help memoir, plus four romantic novels.

Fletcher, who lives in London, is providing a ‘tuck shop’ for the cast in her dressing room including fizzy drinks and chocolate bars.

Anyone who wants a drink or snack is being asked to write a joke in her Cinderella journal by way of payment.

She lives in North-West London with her cat, and is dating actor Oliver Ormson.

Fletcher has been outspoken on the issue of the theatre industry’s treatment of women, and body image.

During her second stint in Les Misérables — from 2013 to 2016 — she was referred to by a senior member of the creative team as ‘our butch Éponine’, which knocked her confidence.

She said: ‘It was my first adult job, and just a throwaway comment. They were like, “Well, we’ve not had anyone as big as you before.” I thought, “OK, will I have to put up with that for the rest of my career now?” Thankfully, producers are opening their eyes and having discussions for the better.’ 

Actor Tosh Wanogho-Maud was cast as Prince Charming, and completed four weeks of rehearsals before leaving, citing a schedule clash. 

He has been replaced by Caleb Roberts who had a small role in the 2018 TV series A Very English Scandal about former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

Caleb Roberts, who had a small role in the 2018 TV series A Very English Scandal about former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, will play Prince Charming

Fairy tale of a first-time lead

The male lead is dancer Ivano Turco, a graduate of Urdang Academy in Islington, who is a newcomer to the stage.

Born in Zimbabwe, he grew up in Milton Keynes and went to his first audition in July for an ensemble part. There he caught Lloyd Webber’s eye.

He said: ‘I was asked to stay behind and I remember being in the dressing room pacing nervously. I had to dance and sing in front of the creative team and then . . . two days later I got the call.

‘It still feels weird now saying: “My role”. I can’t believe it. It really is the stuff of fairy tales. It is a magical story.’

Born in Zimbabwe, Ivano Turco grew up in Milton Keynes and went to his first audition in July for an ensemble part. There he caught Lloyd Webber’s eye

Lloyd Webber said: ‘Ivano initially came in to audition as a dancer but has a natural acting talent, a wonderful voice and an innate charm and warmth, and from the day we met I just knew I’d found our Prince.’

The midwife with an Oscar 

Actress and writer Emerald Fennell, 35, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film Promising Young Women this year, is the writer of Cinderella.

Lloyd Webber has been a friend of her father, society jeweller Theo Fennell, for decades. 

She recalls: ‘I was sitting next to Andrew at a friend’s dinner, which makes my life sound much more exciting than it is. 

He said he’d always wanted to make Cinderella, but had never found a way to do it that was different. 

‘I told him the problem with Cinderella is that it relies upon the fact that a makeover makes a woman better, and then wrote him an outline. 

‘He is incredibly decisive and collaborative. And he really does take everything on board. I know that if I say something he might not agree with me, but if he doesn’t, he will almost certainly be right.’ 

Actress and writer Emerald Fennell, 35, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film Promising Young Women this year, is the writer of Cinderella

It’s a huge first theatre job for Fennell, left, a credited writer on Killing Eve who has also written novels, starred in Call The Midwife until 2017 and more recently portrayed Camilla Parker Bowles in the Netflix drama The Crown. 

Lloyd Webber says: ‘It is faithful to the original and has the beloved elements — the ball, the glass slipper. 

But in the original the story rather runs out of steam when the Prince is holding the slipper, but here there is a bit more to it than that. There is an edge.’

But can we actually go to the ball? 

The theatre has been sold to 100 per cent capacity, and Andrew Lloyd Webber has written to ticket holders — who’ve paid up to £162 for entry — to thank them for their patience and to warn them that they might have to change their plans at short notice.

Lloyd Webber has previously said he will lose money if the theatre is less than 80 per cent full. He will now open at 50 per cent capacity.

He said: ‘Having taken legal opinion from senior counsel, if we had gone ahead at 100 per cent it would be very likely that every member of my cast, crew and orchestra, the front and backstage staff, plus our loyal audience members, could be individually fined hundreds of pounds, which I couldn’t possibly risk. 

‘If it were just me, I would happily risk arrest and fines to make a stand and lead the live music and theatre industry back to the full capacities we so desperately need.

‘For now, Cinderella is the first world premiere of a new musical in this country since the pandemic. It is the product of hundreds of people’s tireless effort for years. Win, lose or draw, we have to continue.’ 

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