(Chris Wiegan’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/18;  Photo:  Rebecca Trehearn as the Queen, with Sam Robinson (Dorian), Vinny Coyle (Arthur) and Giovanni Spano (Gawain) in Cinderella. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

Gillian Lynne theatre, London

Bewitching melodies abound as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s terrifically OTT but warm and inclusive musical finally arrives

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.

The original story and book by Emerald Fennell have heart and a torrent of barbed wit, exposing the faulty morals in traditional fairytales without scrimping on glittering trimmings. David Zippel’s crystalline lyrics are attuned to Fennell’s dialogue, cheekily satirical yet wistful and uplifting too. 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.

Laurence Connor’s production starts with a salvo against fairytale bunkum: the shock news is that Prince Charming is dead. Moreover, someone has graffitied his memorial statue. Fennell is up to something similar as she defaces and rewrites myths about femininity, masculinity and heroism, with the keen eye for gender politics she showed in Promising Young Woman.

Our setting is the immaculately preened Belleville. “There’s no town that can compete – frankly if they could we’d cheat,” boast the well-honed citizens in an exuberant opener marked by fanfares and comically fussy staccato. Belleville is famed for sweet roses and creamy milk: a town buffed to perfection where hot buns are not solely the preserve of the bakery.

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