Special Reports

Does Broadway Need Another Cinderella? Andrew Lloyd Webber Thinks So

The classic fairytale is the basis of the ”Cats” composer’s latest musical.

Rodgers Hammerstein's Cinderella played on Broadway from 2013 to 2015, but Andrew Lloyd Webber has written his own version, set to take the stage in 2020.
(© Carol Rosegg / David Gordon)

This week, Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed that his new adaptation of Cinderella is Broadway-bound, and should be in New York sometime in 2020. He let the tidbit slip during an appearance on Good Morning Britain to promote the forthcoming Cats movie: "You know it's Taylor Swift, but she's a cat," he said, marveling at the technical wizardry behind the film. Lloyd Webber then concluded the interview by accompanying Piers Morgan on the keys as the host squawked out his rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."

With a musical catalogue that includes Evita, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Phantom of the Opera (running on Broadway now and forever), Lloyd Webber is undeniably the most successful living Broadway composer (and arguably the most marketable creator of musical theater ever). But is that enough reason for him to take on a story that already has a popular adaptation by the previous reigning champions of Broadway: Rodgers and Hammerstein?

This Story of the Week will lay out everything we know about the newest Andrew Lloyd Webber mega-musical. It will also assess what, if anything, Lord Andrew and his collaborators will bring to a story that everyone already knows — or so we think.

What do we know about Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella?
Lloyd Webber is partnering with lyricist David Zippel (Hercules) and book writer Emerald Fennell, who is the showrunner for season two of Killing Eve. Multitalented, Fennell will also appear as Camilla Parker Bowles in the upcoming season of The Crown. Lloyd Webber described her as, "less than half my age, which is a bit worrying." Naturally, the musical baron will be responsible for providing his signature earworm melodies.

Cinderella received an industry preview in May at the Other Palace in London (one of seven theaters Lloyd Webber owns in the city). The timing was noteworthy because it came in the middle of awards season in New York, when the top names in the industry are focused squarely on Tony. Still, they made an exception and crossed the Atlantic for the latest Lloyd Webber: The Shuberts, the Nederlanders, Scott Rudin, and Thomas Schumacher (of Disney Theatrical) were all in attendance. Apparently, it was a successful event, as evidenced by Lloyd Webber's announcement of a 2020 Broadway berth.

Emerald Fennell is writing the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber's new version of Cinderella.
Emerald Fennell is writing the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber's new version of Cinderella.
(© Mark Jones)

What makes this Cinderella different from the others?
A theater-maker wouldn't attempt Cinderella on Broadway in 2020 without some sort of unique spin on the classic tale of the girl who, against all odds and with a bit of magic, goes to the ball and wins the heart of the prince. Apparently, this version has a modern twist: Columnist Michael Riedel seemed to give away the game when he revealed that Prince Charming is gay. He runs off with a duke (which is higher than a baron), but Cindy is cool with that because she's fallen for a quirky misfit named Sebastian (no word yet on whether this role will be played by Michael Cera).

All things considered, it's the most hackneyed of surprise twists, which is why this reveal doesn't feel like much of a spoiler. That's not to say that the way Fennell packages this rom-com cliché won't be deliriously funny — I certainly hope it is! Otherwise, I will be left with the nagging suspicion that this is the musical-theater equivalent of the Chase Bank float at Pride: a cynical gesture toward gay consumers in the age of woke capitalism.

Will it be any good?
Early word is positive, suggesting that Lloyd Webber has once again composed a score that audiences will be humming with their dying breaths. Whether those tunes will supplant the ones we already know from the Rodgers and Hammerstein version is yet to be seen, but that competition doesn't seem to phase Lloyd Webber. He has been in this position before, and let's be honest: Does anyone really think of Maury Yeston when they think about the Phantom?

This time, of course, Lloyd Webber won't have the benefit of arriving first. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella premiered on TV in 1957, again in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren (my favorite version), and yet again in 1997 with Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. The show finally made it to Broadway in 2013 with Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana in the lead roles. It played 810 performances (including previews) and won William Ivey Long yet another Tony for his magically transforming costumes.

It's hard to imagine anything Lord Andrew writes besting the heartbreaking vulnerability of "In My Own Little Corner," or the giddy romance of "Ten Minutes Ago" — but I'm always open to being surprised. Perhaps there is truly something in this rendition that we've never heard before, something that will make us see Cinderella in a whole new light. It might even prove to be a critical success, which would constitute a real Cinderella story for Lloyd Webber — a wealthy man who doesn't stay at home washing pans, but has certainly received his fair share.