We need to talk about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella

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Are we slandering the cast or just pretending the whole thing didn’t happen this time? Qwertyytrewqqwerty via Wikimedia

The tales of woe and mistreatment of performers in this telling of Cinderella

The musical theater community has several composers who are household names. They will always have a show on the West End and Broadway. There has probably been a movie or two made based on their shows. These are people like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and the man of the hour, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Andrew Lloyd Webber (ALW) has written 21 musicals, including Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Cats (yes, the musical that inspired the 2019 film). His show ‘Starlight Express’ was found to be the most dangerous production on the West End in the 90s because the performers were on roller skates. On average, each performer sustained three injuries. Most recently, ALW has written his own version of Cinderella.  

ALW’s Cinderella opened in August 2021. It portrays Cinderella as a more outspoken and rebellious character, prone to vandalism and considered to be “Bad Cinderella” according to a song. It has a more modern feel; instead of having magic, the Godmother is a plastic surgeon. Cinderella and the Prince are friends before the ball, but he doesn’t recognize her at the ball. The story gets a little complicated, but the couple ends up together in the finale.  

The show was supposed to open August 2020 but had to be cancelled due to COVID, and was rescheduled for July 14, 2021. In a statement, ALW said he was devastated that the show could not go on. Prior to this, ALW stated that the show would “open, come hell or high water.” He was willing to be arrested, so long as it meant Cinderella would open. He went as far as to say that the cast had “no chance of infection being passed” so long as they followed protective measures. ALW was willing and ready to do anything to make sure the show opened on July 14, but it didn’t. 

Eventually, the show did open, but that doesn’t mean ALW was happy. By November of 2021, problems arose again for Cinderella. Following a poor review written by a journalist from the New York Post, claims have been made that ALW just screamed at the cast of Cinderella. According to these claims, ALW was concerned about the musical being able to go to Broadway. Over the loudspeakers of the Gillian Lynne Theatre where the show is performed, a phone call from ALW scolded the cast. ALW did not deny this incident but said that it hadn’t happened previously. Instead, he said in an interview that “nobody has a right to be on the stage,” and that younger members of the cast did not know that. 

Despite what ALW said after the fact, reports said that his words over the phone left many cast members in tears. Performers at the time were doing everything possible to keep the show going with constant closures because of COVID. In addition, ALW said during that interview that the performers worked in a “service industry.” By that standard, wouldn’t ALW also work in the service industry? Yet, he never included himself in that statement. He said that he doesn’t “have a right to have [his] musicals in the theatre,” even though he currently has his shows playing in 21 different places around the world, including tours, and his net worth is a cozy £820 million. 

Cinderella came to a close in June of 2022, but it wasn’t always supposed to have closed then. In February of 2022, it was announced that the show would continue into February of 2023. Tickets went on sale for productions up until this time.  

On May 1, 2022, the Cinderella Twitter page announced the final performance to be June 12. The cast performing on May 1 found out that day following the matinee. Carrie Hope Fletcher, the star of the show and the actress playing Cinderella, was not there to find out on May 1. Instead, in a tweet she has since deleted, she stated other cast members told her and that was how she found out. The replacement cast for the 2023 run found out in similar ways.

Daisy Blanche Twells, who was going to be a member of the replacement cast, found out through social media even though she had already signed a contract. Summer Strallen, who was supposed to take the role of the Queen, wrote an article in the Guardian detailing how she found out. She stated that she first learned of the closing through a text message from a friend. Half an hour before the message from the friend came, Strallen’s agent had an email telling them about the closing. The email arrived not only past 6 p.m., but during a long weekend. The director of the show, Laurence Connor, found out in a similar manner; ALW told Connor through a voicemail while he was in Australia. By the time Connor was back in London, it was Sunday night and social media had already announced the closure. It appears that not one person was given proper notice beforehand, and where effort was made to communicate there was almost no time to see it. 

When the day of closing finally came on June 12, ALW did not show up. He wasn’t there. Instead, during the final bows Connor read a letter ALW had written. In this letter, ALW called the show a “costly mistake.” Videos show Fletcher shaking her head at the comment and the crowd booing loudly once the letter was finished being read. In response, ALW released a statement to Twitter saying that he was “devastated to have been reported to have said [….] Cinderella was a ‘costly mistake.'” Except, it wasn’t just reported that was what he said, it is what he took time to put in writing. ALW continued to apologize “if [his] words have been misunderstood.” This apology feels very ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ instead of truly apologizing for what he said and did to the cast and crew. This statement was not shared to his Instagram, and his Instagram shows very little to do with Cinderella, as does his Twitter outside of the statement. 

ALW’s Cinderella is planning to open its doors again in 2023, but this time on Broadway. Maybe it will face the same struggles the West End run did, but only time will tell. 

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