That Was the Week That Was (August 15-21)

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After multiple delays, cancellations and threats by the composer/producer Andrew Lloyd Webber (to first break the law and play to non-socially distanced audiences when the lifting of restrictions to enable them to do so was delayed, then to close the show down entirely when its opening night was forced to be postponed after a cast member tested positive for Covid), Cinderella finally managed to open in front of a full house on Wednesday, only some of whom were wearing masks. The critical response has been warm, including a five-star rave from The Guardian (though I was considerably more muted in my own response). You can find links to the main reviews, as well as mine, below.

MY COLUMNS AND REVIEWS OF THE WEEK

  • Sunday August 15

My column for today is here: http://shentonstage.com/that-was-the-week-that-was-august-8-14/

Friday August 20
* My column for today is here: http://shentonstage.com/august-20friday-diary-theatrical-returns-for-oleanna-and-jersey-boys/

MY REVIEWS AND REVIEW TWEETS OF THE WEEK

  • Cinderella (Gillian Lynne Theatre, opened Wednesday August 18):

My full review: http://shentonstage.com/review-cinderella/

My own review tweets:

Bagdad Cafe (Old Vic, seen August 18):

  • Oleanna (Arts Theatre, seen August 19):
  • Jersey Boys (Trafalgar Theatre, seen August 19):
  • South Pacific (revisited) (Chichester Festival Theatre, seen August 21)

REVIEWS BY OTHERS OF THE WEEK

  • CINDERELLA (Gillian Lynne Theatre, opened August 18)

Some of the national reviews:

The Guardian (5*, by Chris Wiegand): “Delayed by a year because of the pandemic, and with last month’s opening night postponed at the 11th hour, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical is finally up and running. It arrives late but in high fashion with outre gowns, bare-chested swordplay, brutal high heels and whip-smart humour. It’s worth the wait… Lord Lloyd-Webber’s richly enjoyable orchestrations range from grand waltzes, courtly processionals and marches to deftly pastiched and deeply felt romanticism, power-balladry, a splash of chanson and rollicking guitar riffs. Bewitching melodies abound: some refrains are practically iridescent, revealing new tones from scene to scene…. It adds up to not so much a ball as a blast: terrifically OTT and silly but warm and inclusive, with relatable, down-to-earth heroes and pertinent points about our quest for perfection and our expectations of each other and ourselves.”

The Times (4*, by Clive Davis):  “This reboot of the story, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, delivers a 21st-century take on romance. And it’s joyous. This is a show with a mischievous grin on its face, and in its imaginatve use of the stage revolve, reminds us of the unrivalled potency of live theatre. There’s an element of panto to the production, superbly directed by Laurence Connor, but the knockab out humour comes hand in hand with first-rate production values and droll, dextrous lyrics by David Zippel.”

WhatsOnStage (4*, by Sarah Crompton):  “You’ve got to hand it to Andrew Lloyd Webber. He doesn’t give up. He’s been trying to get his version of Cinderella on stage for well over a year now, battling through lockdown, a pandemic and a pingdemic which kept closing the show just as it staggered into the theatre. No wonder he looked relieved as he bounced onto the stage and announced that barring asteroid strike this really was the opening night. By the end, the audience was bouncing too. Cinderella isn’t going to win any awards for subtlety – it features a dance routine where muscled men heave golden balls around while making jokes about being well equipped, for goodness sake – but it’s colourful, energetic and a huge amount of fun. It also, crucially, has a good heart and some sumptuous tunes, which makes you forgive its failings.”

Daily Telegraph (4*, by Marienka Swain): “This is Lord Lloyd-Webber’s first new show since 2015’s School of Rock. If there’s any justice, Cinderella will match its lengthy run, allowing millions of us to go to the ball. And what a ball it is: easily one of Lloyd Webber’s most entertaining musicals — a family-friendly extravaganza, with larger-than-life characters that make up for our lost pantomime season in 2020… It’s not Lloyd Webber’s most sophicated work, but its generosity of spirit feels perfectly attuned to the moment. Just as we look to woo people vack to the theatres, here comes an utterly charming crowd-pleaser.”

Evening Standard (4* , by Nick Curtis):  “Andrew Lloyd Webber and Emerald Fennell’s sassy, sarky, musical take on the rags-to-riches fairytale proves well worth the wait. Cinderella has a terrific palette of songs,  a snappy contemporary edge and a star — Carrie Hope Fletcher — whose voice is both beautiful and powerful enough to knock down walls. Never mind the plot, submit to the spectacle: around a quarter of the audience will literally feel the earth move under their feet.”

The Stage (3*, by Tim Bano): “So what’s the verdict? It’s fine. It’s enjoyable. Those who held tenaciously to their tickets for a year won’t regret it; those who gave them up won’t be hammering at the door of the Gillian Lynne. There are some good songs in the best Lloyd Webber mould, and the show as a whole is a bit of a spectacle… Ultimately it’s a show that doesn’t know where to go with its big ideas. That is never more true than when the Gillian Lynne’s epic revolve, little-used since Cats, takes the first eight rows of the stalls on a circular journey around the auditorium, briefly making the show in-the-round. Sure it’s fun, but it’s also pointless.”

  • Susannah Clapp’s column in The Observer (August 15)
  • Not a theatre review, but a brilliant restaurant column by Jay Rayner in The Observer of Polo Lounge, a pop-up outdoor restaurant at London’s Dorchester Hotel:

LONDON HEADLINES OF THE WEEK

(I’m going this Wednesday matinee this week)!

REGIONAL HEADLINES OF THE WEEK

USA HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: BROADWAY AND BEYOND

THEATRE BIRTHDAYS OF THE WEEK

A DATE FOR YOUR DIARIES FOR THIS COMING WEEK:

AND FINALLY, SOME FAVOURITE (AND LESS FAVOURITE) PERSONAL TWEETS OF THE WEEK

And lighter relief:

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