If anyone was ever going to enter evidence to detract from the theory that British accents make everything sound better, allow us to present Soho Cinders as Example A.
Uptown Players’ production, a U.S. premiere of a puzzling U.K. musical, grates on so many levels: the mundane dialogue; the painfully wooden acting; the thin, forgettable songs that go on longer than it took Noah to build the ark. It’s not even a Xanadu situation, which is campy and terrible and still irresistible fun. Soho Cinders (or at least, this mish-mashed version of it) is just a tedious bore.
Linda Leonard, playing just one of the show’s fairy godmothers (there’s at least one other, named Sidesaddle because wouldn’t you add just one more silly name to a show with a character like “Velcro,” and also, isn’t it hilarious that all these idiotic monikers are given to those beastly people with female parts while the so-called villain is named “William?”) introduces us to this low-rent version of the Cinderella story set in a sleazy London neighborhood of Compton. Robbie (Peter DiCesare, who has a nice voice) is a young law student working as a male escort to pay his bills while conducting a secret gay affair with James Prince (Sean Burroughs, with all the expression and talent of one of the Trafalgar Square lions his character seems so fond of), who is technically engaged to Marilyn (Janelle Lutz) and definitely campaigning to be London’s next cardboard cutout of an elected official. The niggle: Robbie’s paying client is Lord Bellingham (Francis Henry), and Bellingham is funding Prince’s campaign.
After 75 long minutes of convoluted non-events and the near-constant chiming of characters’ cell phones, the ugly stepsisters (Kim Borge and Stephanie Felton), who look like they’ve been air-dropped into the wrong musical, let Robbie’s secret slip at a hoity-toity fundraiser. It’s off to the races for another 55 minutes until Prince and Robbie can live happily ever after. Actually, it’s more like a meander, since the show and its director, John de los Santos, doesn’t really seem to have a good grasp of timing or tone. Soho Cinders makes light stabs at political and social commentary, and fails miserably. The show alternates between emotional pleas (one such speech is hilariously answered with a heartfelt, cockney-accented “Whatever”) and the usual winking lesbian jokes. Straight women, of course, are even less than one dimensional.
There’s more—a song about text messaging called “Gypsies of the Ether,” for example—but I’ll spare you. More important than what Soho Cinders has is what it sorely lacks. As I was leaving, I overheard a couple discussing Uptown’s production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which presented a nuanced portrait of a gay man, and how much they’d enjoyed that show. Not every production can be a Tony Award-winning piece of theater, but blimey, we can try harder than this.
Soho Cinders repeats Saturday and Sunday at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. If you absolutely must, tickets are here.