As a chronic theatre kid, rarely am I more excited than when a piece of media I enjoy enters the public sphere of knowledge and I get a chance to see my favorite thing get the attention it deserves. So, when I saw that “Bad Cinderella” was getting a lot more attention than many Broadway shows, I was interested to see what the draw of the show was that made it so universally eye-catching.
The draw is that it’s apparently not very good.
Almost everybody talking about this show is talking about how bad it is, and seems to be headed straight for its own special spot in theatre lore forever. However, with all the information swirling around it it could be difficult for someone not as versed in the theatre world to follow along. Luckily, this article will hopefully be able to fit in all the blanks and be more approachable to the non-theatre crowd.
“Bad Cinderella” is a musical retelling of the Cinderella story, this time with the music composed by acclaimed musician Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lloyd Webber is also responsible for the music behind Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and many, many others. He’s made millions of dollars off of his great successes and is one of the most well-known names in theatre. The book of the show is written by Oscar-nominated Emerald Fenner, the filmmaker behind Promising Young Woman. So, the show had some great creative minds behind it (As well as some truly excellent cast members — we’ll talk more about that later), so what went wrong?
“Bad Cinderella” was actually staged in London before coming to Broadway and was just called “Cinderella.” Different from the classic Disney or Rodgers and Hammerstein versions, the story takes on a more subversive spin. It concerns a town that is full of beautiful and conventionally attractive people planning on receiving their “Most Attractive Town” award for the 50th consecutive year. Cinderella has a rebellious streak and refuses to conform, which helps her relate to the shy and gawky younger brother of Prince Charming. With this setting and these characters, the original beats of the story are followed, and we get a happy ending along with a message of being yourself.
When the show premiered on the West End (essentially the London counterpart to New York City’s Broadway) in August 2021, it actually received some generally favorable reviews from British critics. You can see Carrie Hope Fletcher, who played Cinderella, singing the title track here. However, things began to change — fewer tickets were selling, and, disappointing Lloyd Weber specifically, an American critic wrote a bad review of the show. The final curtain was drawn, and the cast read aloud a heartbreaking letter from Lloyd Weber in which he called the production they worked tirelessly on “a costly mistake.” According to many members of the cast, they were not even aware the show was closing until that day.
Now, the show has transferred to Broadway with a new cast and some new lyric changes (presumably for an American audience). While the production was already somewhat notorious due to its London run, its presence in America has caused its online presence to come under harsh criticism. If you look up any video of Bad Cinderella on TikTok, you are almost guaranteed to come across videos either making fun of it, analyzing why it’s so bad or comments absolutely destroying the original post. Many have targeted the music and lyrics (One song uses the word “toenail” in it), while others take issue with the costumes and the overall story. There’s really no way to explain it, so I encourage you to take a look at the videos posted of the Broadway production and decide for yourself. One point of criticism that I can definitely understand is this: the show is supposed to be about Cinderella rebelling against beauty standards and conformism, yet Cinderella is very conventionally attractive and is wearing clothes similar to the rest of the ensemble. Linedy Genao is Latina and it could have been really interesting to see that play into the story, as the beauty standards so often dictate a Blonde, fair-skinned woman.
The show is still in previews, meaning it can still go through changes. Honestly, I hope the show goes through changes and becomes great. The cast seems to be an incredible, energetic bunch of performers (Even during their bows they’re putting the most into it), and no matter how you feel about the actual production, this show is employing that talented bunch. As for the social media response, it’s still giving the production attention, good or bad.
So, hopefully, that caught you up to speed on the “Bad Cinderella” drama. If anything, it’s an interesting look into a real-time pop culture event unfolding before us.