Metro Weekly

‘Bad Cinderella’ Review: Fractured Fairy Tale

"Bad Cinderella," the latest Broadway musical from composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, lives up to its name.

Bad Cinderella -- Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Bad Cinderella — Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

It’s like the Midwest farmer said when he emerged from his bunker post-tornado, surveying the damage done to his land: “Well, it could have been worse.” That’s the general reaction audiences will have as they leave Broadway’s Imperial, currently housing composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bad Cinderella (★★☆☆☆).

Before delving into it, it’s good to know the offstage drama that preceded this Broadway premiere. Originally titled Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, it opened in London in June 2021, delayed nearly a year by Covid. The reviews were generally favorable, perhaps due to the excitement that live theater had returned.

After a year of battling positive Covid cases and with Sir Andrew battling with the British government over Covid protocol, he finally pulled the plug. Following a matinee in May 2022, he declared the endeavor “a costly mistake” to the audience. One month later, the show was gone. Many cast and crew members were caught off-guard claiming they were not made aware of the show’s closure before the public announcement.

On one hand, it is surprising, then, that Lloyd Webber decided to transfer the musical across the pond. Unless originally slated for a limited run, a production that only lasts a year on the West End or on Broadway can hardly be considered a hit. Why then would anyone place such a risky bet for a second chance? The answer: ego.

Bad Cinderella: Lindedy Genao -- Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Bad Cinderella: Lindedy Genao — Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

For 44 consecutive years, at least one Andrew Lloyd Webber show has been represented on Broadway. After 35 years and change, his Phantom of the Opera will close in April. His choice to bring his updated fairy tale to New York can only suggest that the British impresario wishes to extend his legacy. Unfortunately, it might prove to be another costly mistake.

Critics and theater insiders love to vilify Lord Webber. Many declare him to be a schlock and over the years, have accused him of copying melodies from other composers and for the repetitive refrains he employs in all of his shows. Still, he has soldiered on, turning derision into dough — quite a lot of it, in fact. Unfairly, pitchforks and poisoned pens were prepped long before previews began. Yet with so much drama coming from the slippered heel of his London run, why on earth would anyone invite criticism by changing the title to include the word “bad”?

Bad Cinderella: Grace McLean -- Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Bad Cinderella: Grace McLean — Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Here, his leading lady, played by Broadway newcomer Linedy Genao, is an anti-heroine of sorts. She knows what it takes to secure a man’s hand in marriage but is unwilling to play the game.

Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson), an unlikely suitor given his modest build and awkwardness, is pining for her love but is unaware of how to capture her heart. He is left to find someone to wed since his brother, Prince Charming (Cameron Loyal) was killed. (Don’t cry. We’ll see him again — and he returns with a surprise).

Meanwhile, the Queen (Grace McLean) and Cinderella’s stepmother (Carolee Carmello) are meddling in romantic affairs, fixed on marrying for pedigree over true affection.

Genao and Gibson are simply fine as the young lovers. Vocally, they each have pleasant voices. But neither have the “it” factor to truly earn star status. That rank belongs to Carmello and McLean, two Broadway vets who know how to command a stage and milk a laugh from a mediocre script.

One of the show’s best moments happen during the pair’s showdown. In “I Know You”, the two share deliciously catty barbs with one another as they stroll down memory lane.

Another stand-out is Sebastian’s gorgeous ballad, “Only You, Lonely You,” which hearkens to Webber’s earlier works. Even if it is infused with syrup and saccharine, the man can undeniably write a lush melody.

Visually, Bad Cinderella has much to consume. Too much in fact. Whereas most Broadway shows these days opt for sparseness, set and costume designer Gabriela Tylesova has gone to the other extreme, dressing the cast so garishly that they all look like animated highlighters against a rotating set inspired by eighties icon Lisa Frank.

Emerald Fennell’s book and David Zippel’s lyrics convey the tale with sufficient means, but this tuner has a hard time finding its tone. At times, it takes itself a bit too seriously. In other moments, it tries for camp. Consequently, many of the jokes fall flat. Were it to tilt fully towards the latter, it would be more satisfying.

Bad Cinderella: Morgan Higgins and Sami Gayle -- Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Bad Cinderella: Morgan Higgins and Sami Gayle — Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Despite the female power that this revamp attempts to promote, one must question the misogyny of intentionally making every other woman but Cinderella completely unlikable and downright mean. But the greater, overarching problem is that in 2023, we are still peddling the notion that true love — particularly for women — must absolutely be found. How archaic and, dare it be written, Grimm.

Other offerings currently on the boards infuse feminism with more flair. Among them: Six& Juliet, and Wicked. Although Bad Cinderella isn’t harmful enough to cause cuts or blisters, there are many more comfortable shoes-and shows-from which to choose.

Bad Cinderella is playing at the Imperial Theatre 249 West 45th Street in New York City. Tickets are $48 to $298. Call 800-447-7400 or visit

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