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Review: Soho Cinders (Union Theatre)

Stiles and Drewe's retelling of Cinderella opens at the Union Theatre for Christmas

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Soho Cinders
© Darren Bell

Stiles and Drewe's Soho Cinders first opened in 2011 and has become a bit of a cult favourite among the musical theatre duo's fans. I have seen it - in various guises - twice before; once in a concert staging with a full orchestra at Queens Theatre in the West End and then a fully staged production with an orchestra of about 15. So I was intrigued to see how the Union Theatre's production would fare with an orchestra of only three.

The modern retelling of the Cinderella story is set on and around Old Compton Street. Robbie (Joshua Lewindon) is caught up in a salacious love triangle between James Prince (Lewis Asquith), the new mayoral candidate for London and Lord Bellingham (Chris Coleman), a tenacious businessman, who is Prince's main backer. With Velcro (Emily Deamer) by his side (who is simply outstanding), Robbie learns the hard way about living and loving in a busy city. It has all the staple characters of a panto, without being an actual panto.

Stiles (music), Drewe (lyrics and book) and Elliot Davis (co-book) combine an uplifting, memorable score with a book full of quick quips which has a story with real heart. You can't help but smile as you become part of the Soho hustle and bustle.

The cast work tremendously hard, with Lowri Walton's depiction of the betrayed Prince's wife Marilyn tugging at the heart strings. She plays the role with sophistication and warmth, but the two 'ugly' sisters Dana (Natalie Harman) and Clodagh (Michaela Stern) are by far the most memorable performances. Gifted with the best one liners, quirky songs and atrocious makeup, they light up the stage at every possible moment.

Whilst the show is well put together, it was the venue itself which slightly disappointed. The Union Theatre has only just moved to a new site but the auditorium is still tiny and, the night I saw it, stifling hot. Will Keith's direction also doesn't help much as there's so much going on that often it's easy to miss a lot of the speech due to the lack of amplification.

But my worries about the size of the band were unfounded. Despite there being only three musicians, led by Sarah Morrison, the music sounded as though there were ten. It was delightful.

Soho Cinders runs at the Union Theatre until 23 December.