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‘Bad Cinderella’ Broadway review: A wacko dumpster fire


What the ’ella?

For a musical with the drunken confidence to slap the word “Bad” in front of a classic title, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bad Cinderella,” which opened Thursday night on Broadway, doesn’t have much in the best way of ‘tude and swagger onstage. Or brain cells.

Theater review

2 and a half hours with one intermission. On the Imperial Theatre, 249 West forty fifth Street.

It’s a multitude with multiple personality disorder. From start to complete during this perplexing and infrequently dull fairytale spin — and, oh, does it spin — you’re never entirely sure what you’re watching or why you’re watching it.

It’s part cutesy, Nickelodeon-style teen comedy: A vapid character remarks on someone’s looks, “It’s giving peasant! It’s giving rags!” And Cinderella’s romance together with her geeky prince is reduced to a “friend zone,” does-he-like-me miscommunication. The love story at the middle has no drama.

Linedy Genao and Jordan Dobson play Cinderella and Prince Sebastian in “Bad Cinderella” on Broadway.Evan Zimmerman

Then there are Lloyd Webber’s lushly orchestrated and tuneful ballads, which — all chandeliers aside — are why we come to any show by him. The wonderful song “Only You, Lonely You,” sung not by Cinderella but by Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson), is the one best moment of the musical, which is unlucky since it happens in the course of the first 25 minutes. 

Cinderella’s “I Know I Have A Heart (Because You Broke It)” and “Far Too Late” are pretty — the too-wordy lyrics are by David Zippel — but there’s no powerful narrative construct to assist them soar like they need to.

Not excited by ballads or teen flirting? “Bad Cinderella” can also be a Chippendales strip show. A fun-enough horde of shirtless beefcakes called the Hunks dance, thrust, do push-ups and lift weights. 

A bunch of beefcakes called The Hunks occasionally take the stage to dance and work out shirtless.A bunch of beefcakes called the Hunks occasionally take the stage to bounce and work out shirtless.Evan Zimmerman

In case you’re confused, that’s OK. So am I. Collectively, the musical makes as much sense as “The Rum Tum Tugger” on an countless loop.

I first saw the show in London back in fall of 2021, and for 17 head-scratching months I’ve been asking myself: What exactly makes Cinderella so bad?

The edgy title is misleading. With a terrible book of meme quotes by “Promising Young Woman” writer-director Emerald Fennell, “Bad Cinderella” is de facto about society’s unfair beauty standards. But they couldn’t thoroughly call it “Not-Blonde Cinderella.”

The musical is obsessive about looks: It’s set in a hamlet called Belleville (beautiful town en Francais), the opening number sung by its residents is “Beauty Is Our Duty,” and the fairy godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson) is now a ridiculous magic-free plastic surgeon who sings a number called “Beauty Has a Price” before she sort-of operates on Cinderella.

Appropriately, the sultry costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, higher than they were within the West End, could conceivably be rented out to a “Beauty and the Beast” porno.

Linedy Genao as CinderellaLinedy Genao sings Cinderella’s “I need” song, “Easy To Be Me,” which is simply too low-energy.Evan Zimmerman

Still, because outcast Cinders is herself dressed like a supporting character from “The Mandalorian,” she is nicknamed “Bad Cinderella” by the nasty villagers. She’s a reject Hester Prynne, only with a scarlet “B” and never enough personality or meaningful character development to hold a 2 1//2-hour show.

Her one rebel move comes initially when she defaces a memorial statue of Sebastian’s older brother, Prince Charming, who has just died in a war, with an indication that claims, “Beauty Sucks.” They definitely couldn’t call it “Smart Cinderella.”

Within the title role, an appealing Linedy Genao tries to offer the girl some gusto. Every line is delivered confrontationally, even when it doesn’t make much sense to achieve this, but the fabric is floss-thin and the character inherently lacks star quality. 

That’s very true in her early song “Easy To Be Me,” where Cinderella explains how she desires to move somewhere she might be herself and “where no person will roll their eyes.” It’s a quiet, wishy-washy tune without the burning desire of “Some People” from “Gypsy” or “I’ll Know” from “Guys and Dolls.” Her life’s dream is a shrug — and so is her story.

Jordan Dobson as Prince Sebastian Jordan Dobson as Prince Sebastian has the show’s best musical moment when he sings “Only You, Lonely You.”Evan Zimmerman

Adele (Sami Gayle) and Marie (Morgan Higgins) want to marry Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson).Adele (Sami Gayle) and Marie (Morgan Higgins) need to marry Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson).Evan Zimmerman

After Prince Charming dies, Sebastian is forced by his mother, the Queen (Grace McLean), to seek out a wife at a ball after which have a royal wedding. “Invite every girl in the dominion, and charge VIP access!” goes one in all the lame lines. Seb and Cinders have been best friends since childhood, and she or he’s upset when he wants her to affix him on the party “as a friend.”

But Cinderella’s stepmother (Carolee Carmello) blackmails the Queen with sordid details of her past to get the ring on one in all her horrible daughters, Adele (Sami Gayle) and Marie (Morgan Higgins).

McLean and Carmello enjoyably yuk it up with supersize socialite personas; nonetheless, there shouldn’t be one big laugh in this complete show. “Bad Cinderella” is content with being silly, not funny.

Carolee Carmello yuks it up as Cinderella's cruel stepmother.Carolee Carmello yuks it up as Cinderella’s cruel stepmother.Evan Zimmerman

Or particularly romantic. Cinderella and Sebastian spending their future together garners, at best, casual support from the audience, and the ending is full-on wacko.

Lloyd Webber’s music — some, not all — is the show’s redeeming element. The direction and design left me cold again. Tylesova’s set of creepy roots and twigs is attractive, but feels miles away from, say, a whimsical cosmetic surgery scene or a gaggle of shirtless warriors getting cat-called.

And director Laurence Connor isn’t any Hal Prince or Trevor Nunn. He almost never stops spinning his onstage turntable, in hopes of hypnotizing the audience into actually having fun with themselves. 

This isn’t Lloyd Webber’s worst musical. There aren’t any trains-on-roller-skates (from “Starlight Express”) and we thankfully don’t must hearken to the song “Seeing Is Believing” (from “Points of Love”) for minutes on end. We’re not talking “Love Never Dies” here. 

But Bad Cinderella would have been higher off staying home than going to the ball.

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