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Review: Soho Cinders (Charing Cross Theatre)

Stiles and Drewe's musical reimagining of the Cinderella story is revived in London

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Luke Bayer and Millie O'Connell in Soho Cinders
© Pamela Raith

Old Compton Street, London: where the buildings are painted like Pride's rainbow flag (or the houses of Balamory) and tourists mix with "prostitutes". Here we meet Robbie, the Cinderella of our tale. A young man living a humdrum life – working in a laundrette once owned by his late mother, paying rent to his stepsisters in an unorthodox way. When Robbie begins dating mayoral candidate James Prince, things get complicated and Robbie ends up in a media scandal which threatens to take everything – and everyone – he loves away.

But don't worry, the show isn't as high drama as it sounds, with Anthony Drewe's book and Elliot Davis' script ping-ponging between cracking one-liners one minute ("There's so much bodily fluid on these sheets I could set up a fertility clinic") and heart-warming moments the next, in a true celebration of Soho.

As Robbie, Luke Bayer is utterly charming and a real protagonist to root for. Just a harmless boy in love, his performance of "They Don't Make Glass Slippers" captivates the audience, and his chemistry with best friend Velcro (Millie O'Connell) is incredibly sweet. Though underused in act one, O'Connell provides some of the big laughs of the show with her quirky and sarcastic nature, and really comes into her own in the second half with some smooth vocals.

Stiles and Drewe's score is a mixed bag of cutesie duets ("Wishing for the Normal"), toe-tapping dance numbers and forgettable fillers. The best number of the night has to be handed to the Stepsisters' duet "I'm So Over Men". Natalie Harman and Michaela Stern lark about the stage, giving it some real cockney welly as they toss out innuendos and dirty dance moves a-plenty. Adam Haigh's stylish choreography also really shines in "It's Hard to Tell".

A loose, satirical retelling of the classic fairy tale, the plot still manages to be good enough to stand on its own – mixing politics, family drama and bawdy jokes to great effect. Though there's the inclusion of a sexual harassment case which is so glossed over you forget it exists, the show highlights the importance of friendships and being true to yourself. Even without looking too hard for a moral it's plain to see that Will Keith's production is bags of fun, with an incredibly talented cast. It's certainly one heck of a party down Old Compton Street.