After an initial run back in 2012, Soho Cinders is back off the west end at the Charing Cross Theatre, and its unique narrative and warm characters are more relevant than ever. Set on the iconic Old Compton Street in the beating heart of the West End, this modern Cinderella sees young Robbie (Luke Bayer) navigate a rather complicated love life. Sugar daddies replace fairy god mothers and a closeted mayoral candidate may just be his Prince Charming!

The opening number “Old Compton Street” really encapsulates the theme of the rest of the musical. Setting the story in such a recognizable place gives an instant connection to the audience who themselves may have spent many nights in the Soho area. For those who haven’t, the essence of this street is explained. Theatre goers, winers and diners, and a much younger crowd all flood the street every day - albeit at very different times. The times where these demographics overlap gives a real insight into the diversity that makes London the best city in the world.

No Cinderella story, even this very loose retelling, would be complete without the ugly step sisters. Michaela Stern and Natalie Hern give a hilarious performance as these classic characters. Despite being the bitchiest and meanest incarnation of the characters probably ever seen, they project a real charm and have the audience laughing non-stop. Their song in the second half, with themdressed in unicorn onesies for their 15 minutes of fame, does seem a bit out of place in what is otherwise a much more focused and intense part of the musical. Nevertheless, stumbling across the stage drunk and singing at the top of their lungs while still hitting all the punchlines takes real skill.

Despite the title and premise of a Cinderella retelling, this seldom actually becomes important for the plot. What makes this story so special is the depth of each character. Even supporting characters have their moment in the spotlight and win over the audience in their own way. For example, Ewan Gillies gives an exceptional performance as the Malcolm Tucker-esque spin doctor, raising the bar for singing and drama for everyone. The fiancé, played by Tori Hargeaves, seemed a bit one-dimensional and quite frankly inconsequential in the first half but is then presented to the audience in a much more nuanced and complete way after the interval. A special mention for Millie O’Connell who plays the best friend Velcro who brings a real human touch to the story. Despite not being given that much stage time, her performance is arguably the most impactful.

Whether you are looking for a sappy romance story, a political thriller, or just a bit of a laugh, this modern musical has it all. Come down to The Charing Cross Theatre for a show that will have you dancing, laughing, and crying the night away!

4.5 stars