Frankly, she’s also a real kid

The deus ex machina is alive and well, and when it appears out of nowhere near the end of “Bad Cinderella,” it nearly saves this troubled new musical that opened Thursday at the Imperial Theater on Broadway. Surprisingly, for a show based on the Cinderella fairy tale, he is named Prince Charming. And in the person of Cameron Loyal, who makes his outrageous Broadway debut here, that god is a hilarious send-off of overripe gay pornstars.

Oh yes, and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music.

It’s been quite the season on Broadway for LGBTQ characters. Although musicals are the great gay art form, there have been few queer characters singing for our enjoyment in the tuners’ standard repertoire. If you don’t count Bobby in “Company,” there’s only one in Stephen Sondheim’s work, and he’s Hollis Bessemer’s supporting character in “Road Show,” the last fully completed musical master. This season, Broadway is catching up with major queer characters in “& Juliet” and “Some Like It Hot” and now “Bad Cinderella.” The difference with Loyal’s Prince Charming is that he’s not a pathetic trope created to make us cry about his lot in life. He’s meant to be a joke – and the only one on this show that manages to keep the audience laughing in a sustained and sustained fashion.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's son

Lots of jigging with the Cinderella story has been done to find a Prince Charming who’s not only gay (and ridiculously buff) but delivers the 11 o’clock cover of the song “Man’s Man.” Frankly, the mess of “Bad Cinderella” writer credits (“original story and book by Emerald Fennell” and “book adaptation by Alexis Scheer”) extends to what happens on stage. Fennell and Scheer stuck to the Disney princess formula, which dictates that the young heroine be brave, strong, and outspoken. In other words, she’s already perfect and doesn’t need anyone, let alone a man, to love her. It’s significant that Lloyd Webber and lyricist David Zippel give their great love song, “Only You, Lonely You,” not to Cinderella (Linedy Genao) but to her love, Prince Sebastian (beautifully-voiced Jordan Dobson ), which she holds at her length sides.

Lloyd Webber and Zippel write them as before. Critics have never embraced his music, but audiences appreciate the melodic tradition he represents, Lloyd Webber being the last survivor of an unapologetic romanticism that dates back to Frederick Loewe, Franz Lehar and Giacomo Puccini. With songs like “Memory” from “Cats” and now “Only You, Lonely You”, this composer writes music that bypasses the brain to go straight to the heart. In “Bad Cinderella,” the opening ballet of Act 2, “The Wedding March,” is straight out of a Lehár operetta, and the one-upmanship contest “I Know You” between the queen (a little Grace McLean) and the stepmother (a strident Carolee Carmello) is a new version of “I remember it well” from “Gigi” by Lerner and Loewe.

Lloyd Webber and Zippel have a much harder time writing anything memorable for their sulky heroine, her great anthem of female empowerment given the generic title “Cinderella’s Soliloquy.” But Genao delivers it with all the alarm bells that aficionados of “Defying Gravity” and “Let It Go” came to honor with an immediate ovation.

Aaron Sorkin recovering from a stroke in 2022:

This bad Cinderella begins promisingly as Banksy’s artist defacing royal statues in his beauty-obsessed village. The townspeople hate her because she’s not pretty. They’re right: Gabriela Tylesova’s suits and Luc Verschueren’s wigs turn Genao into Courtney Love of her grunge period, who might be considered hip if we saw “Bad Cinderella” in 1993 and not 2023. Since this Cinderella is a portrait in independence and self-confidence, her love interest, Prince Sebastian, quickly emerges as the needy; and blessed with “Only You, Lonely You,” Dobson walks away alone with our sympathy. (Dobson was also charmed by Ivo van Hove’s Broadway revival of “West Side Story,” as a stunt double, the only believable Tony I’ve ever seen on stage or screen.)

When the godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson channeling the ‘Into the Woods’ witch) gives Cinderella her big makeover, we’re meant to see the transformation as a bad thing — there are hints of cosmetic surgery gone wild — and that’s it. is bad in every possible way. Here, Tylesova’s costume and Verschueren’s wig deliver the redundancy of an ersatz Lady Gaga.

Laurence Connor’s musical direction is picky when it needs clarity. JoAnn M. Hunter’s choreography for the big beefcake production number “Hunk’s Song,” followed by “Man’s Man,” which are pale imitations of “Ain’t There Everyone Here for Love?”, is particularly hazy. from the film version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.

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In the end, if Prince Sebastian is the one chasing Cinderella, and she’s the one rejecting him for reasons never explained, who cares if this rebellious young woman outcast ever makes it to the ball? Our heroine finally shows up at the palace with enough glitter to blind RuPaul, and since he’s not wearing eye protection, Prince Sebastian doesn’t recognize her. Her failure prompts the kind of bratty hissy-fit Genao that would have any responsible bachelor banishing their Cinderella from the fantasy sequel long before the final rose.

It’s a miracle that this prince doesn’t follow his big brother’s example and ends up with a kind, simple and docile chorus.

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