George Stiles & Anthony Drewe On ... Their New Musical Soho Cinders
The gala promises to be an all-star affair with a cast which includes Hannah Waddingham, Sandi Toksvig, David Bedella, Beverly Rudd, Sharon D Clarke, Clive Carter, Michael Xavier and Amy Lennox all helping raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Billed as "Cinderella remixed", the one-nighter is directed by Jonathan Butterell and choreographed by Drew McOnie. Whatsonstage.com spoke to Stiles and Drewe about writing their new show, bringing it to the West End stage, the recent London departure of Betty Blue Eyes and supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust.
We've been working on Soho Cinders since the summer of 2000 - even longer from Anthony's point of view. It was after we had won the Olivier Award for Honk! at the National Theatre. We had a chance to sit down and write a musical about anything we wanted.
We then got hijacked with Mary Poppins and then Betty Blue Eyes. The show has never really gone away. We did six songs from it at our A Spoonful of Stiles and Drewe concert to sort of test the water with some of the material.
We wanted to write a contemporary-feeling show. We were first writing at a time not long after the scandal of Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. The issue of politicians and their sexual peccadilloes was fresh in everyone's mind. Anthony was originally going to write a musical based on Cinderella which was called Lauderella and set in an East End laundrette. With Soho Cinders we wanted to write a show about London and we knew it was going to have a gay storyline. It's a bit like Guys and Dolls, the world of Soho Cinders conjure a world that never really existed.
Soho Cinders is as modern as we have allowed ourselves to get. It's still musical theatre but we tried to write songs which would work out of the context of the show. They further the plot but they stand alone. Songs like "They Don't Make Glass Slippers" and "Even You Shall Go to the Ball, Cinderella" are fairly non-specific, although one's still got the word "Cinderella" in the title. That can mean a million things to a million different people.
We asked Teenage Cancer Trust "what can I do, apart from just writing a cheque?" They said that they did these charity treks. So last October Anthony went to the Himalayas. The aim of the trip was to see the third highest peak in the world Kanchenjunga.
Last year we did a concert at Wilton's Music Hall which raised about £15,000 for the charity, hopefully the Soho Cinders concert will do a similar thing. The trip this year is to Machu Picchu, it's a few days after the concert and next year Anthony is going to Cambodia.
It's really hard to see Betty go obviously. I don't think we've ever had five-star reviews before. When we got that we maybe thought we were home and dried. We knew the audiences loved it, they just weren't there in sufficient numbers for Cameron Mackintosh to warrant keeping it on. It's really sad. Cameron has said he's gone through everything, he just can't work out what's gone wrong. It's not hit the zeitgeist at this particular time.
We're all agreed that it won't be the end of the show. It'll reappear. Cameron is very keen to see it happen in another theatre and I know what he's like - he never gives up on a show and I'm confident he won't give up on this one. He has been waxing lyrical about it, and saying this is just the end of one part of its journey.
It is a wonderful line-up. It is great to be able to pick up the phone to a lot of our best friends. It is always staggering how much people are prepared to do for nothing. Their heart is so much in the right place. They get asked to do charity events like this all the time. In this case some of them are putting in as much as two weeks worth of rehearsal time because we're trying to do it as off the book as possible.
We've got Drew McOnie choreographing the show. There's going to be quite a lot of movement. We're aiming for something like the Encore! series in New York or the Lost Musicals season here. That's provided George allows us some space once he's got his huge band up there. Drew is a fantastic, young choreographer who was recommended to us by both Stephen Mear and Matthew Bourne independently. Both said "he's the pretender to my throne" so I think we'll be seeing a lot of him in the near future.
We're very much hoping that the Soho Cinders concert might have some producers in the audience who say "right, let's go with it". We would see it as coming into a slightly funky space in London. I think we would love to see it open in London, because it is such a London centric show.
Soho Cinders is performed for one night only on Sunday 9 October 2011 as a charity gala at the Queen's Theatre in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.