You would be forgiven for any confusion on when Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Cinerella finally opened to audiences on the West End. Webber, having attempted rather unsuccessfully to strong-arm the UK government into an enhanced package of recovery funding for the arts in London, was insistent throughout that the show must go on (even during the pandemic).
When Covid was merely a vaguely eerie backstory on the news, in January 2020 it was announced to great excitement that Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) and David Zippel would collaborate to create a modern version of Cinderella. However, by March the show had faced its first delay, with the opening put back to October 2020. Before then, two successive delays to March and then July 2021 dampened expectations that theatre-goers could see the spectacle (now with an original song pre-released) in the year after it’s planned opening.
It was in June 2021 that Webber had seemingly had enough, insisting that he was to open the show at full capacity and, when asked what he would do if the government were to postpone the Covid reopening, “we will say: ‘come to the theatre and arrest us.’” But, that did not happen. After a member of the cast tested positive for Covid the press night was cancelled and Cinderella forbidden, once again, to go to the ball. It was only by the 18th of August, over a year after its originally scheduled opening, that the show finally opened to critics (receiving some of the best reviews of any new musical and, as Webber would later say, some of the best of his career).
Unfortunately, the Omicron Covid wave put a stop to any Christmas and New Year performances (usually a busy time for the arts), and Cinderella was closed again until February 2022.
After only a few months of shows, on the 1st of May this year Cinderella’s closure was announced via social media - largely expected to be a long-running fixture of the West End, the costs and impracticalities of running a show during Covid ultimately proved its ruin. Whilst we may be surprised at a distance, some of the cast purportedly only found of the show’s cancellation on Twitter, slamming the show’s creators and organisers for the lack of respect at what had been a very trying time for the industry.
In summary, on the closing night, Webber thanks the cast and crew and, in amongst the words extolling the cast, crew and creatives -- wonders if it was not all a costly mistake.