Kim Borge and Stephanie Felton in <em>Soho Cinders</em> at Uptown Players

Review: Soho Cinders | Uptown Players | Kalita Humphreys Theater

Cinder Blocked

At Uptown Players, the British musical Soho Cinders tries to settle for stupid fun, but weak songs can't even ensure that.

published Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Photo: Mike Morgan
The cast of Soho Cinders at Uptown Players

Dallas — Sometimes you just gotta admit that while a musical isn’t going to win any awards for writing, music or sense-making, it’s still a lot of fun. If only it were that easy with Soho Cinders, the updated Cinderella story having its American premiere at Uptown Players, directed by John de los Santos with musical direction by Adam C. Wright.

The show, with music by George Stiles and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis, had been brewing in London for years before its official world premiere in 2012.

In this tale, Robbie (Peter DiCesare) is a rentboy—excuse me, “escort”—with two obnoxious stepsisters, Dana (Kim Borge) and Clodagh (Stephanie Felton). Robbie is loved by an older, closeted politician who’s helping him find his family history, and a possible inheritance, Lord Bellingham (Frances Henry); but Rob’s having an affair with a handsome up-and-coming politician, James Prince (Sean Burroughs), who’s keeping a straight public face with his socialite fiancée Marilyn (Janelle Lutz). The only one with sense is Robbie’s best gal-pal, the spastic Velcro (Brett Warner Hurt, in the show’s standout performance). The conflict in the plot happens with a public outing.

Photo: Mike Morgan
Sean Burroughs and Janelle Lutz in Soho Cinders at Uptown Players

Considering it’s inspired by one of the most famous fairy tales, we know the story is going to be predictable. But do the songs have to be? It’s like the creators ordered a “Let’s Make a Musical!” kit and plugged in all the typical song types you can find in any generic, pop-pastiche, contemporary musical—especially the ones adapted from a movie or other source.

Examples: The company opens with “Old Compton Street,” the expository sense-of-place song that’s become such a cliché that much more clever musicals like Avenue Q and Urinetown parody it. The wackiest characters, the stepsisters, deliciously played by Felton and Borge, have the upbeat, defiant “you go girl” number, “I’m So Over Men”—see “My Strongest Suit” from the musical Aida or “Bend and Snap” from Legally Blonde. And how about the realization-of-unrequited-love tune when Robbie sings “They Don’t Make Glass Slippers,” à la “I Know the Truth” from Aida. All of those songs in the other musicals are much better than the ones in Soho Cinders. It didn't help that on opening night, a good chunk of the chorus numbers were tarnished with sour notes and burned-out endings.

The only song that’s halfway memorable is “Let Him Go,” a duet sung by Velcro and Marilyn, by far the best moment in Uptown’s production; Hurt and Lutz do it justice.

Another burning question about a show inspired by Cinderella: The minor character of Sidesaddle (Sara Shelby-Martin) has one scene that implies she’s the Fairy Godmother character; but there’s also a narrator who doesn't do much narrating, played by Linda Leonard. Why not combine them into one character?

Some performers, especially the vets like Leonard and Martin, give it their best silk-purse try. Felton wins the popularity contest for her funny, physical performance, and the hunky Sean Burroughs is a good find for the area as a young, leading man who can sing, even if he’s bland in this beige role. Ian Mead Moore has moments as the "bad guy," a scheming political consultant named William. Hurt blows everyone away with the only character worth caring about.

At least the production looks great, with Michelle Harvey’s double-level scenic design and set pieces that easily change out, accented with smart multi-media design by H. Bart Mcgeehon; and as usual, Suzi Cranford’s costumes are spot-on, as are Coy Covington’s wigs, especially for Marilyn.

A musical that’s unapologetic, silly fun is one thing—when it’s flawlessly executed. But a dopey show with not an ounce of originality doesn’t deserve the glass-slipper treatment. Thanks For Reading

Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Cinder Blocked
At Uptown Players, the British musical Soho Cinders tries to settle for stupid fun, but weak songs can't even ensure that.
by Mark Lowry

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :