Written by George Stiles (music) lyrics and book by Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis, Soho Cinders is a charming, somewhat raunchy, amusing and surprisingly effective, musical comedy. It is a contemporary sendup of Cinderella, in which the protagonist is now a gay man named Robbie. He lives in a very “colorful” district of London (squalid, pleasure trade) where he operates a laundromat (Sit and Spin) with his best friend (and faghag) Velcro, so-called because of her misbehaving hair. His two despicable, disgusting stepsisters Dana and Clodagh, are fighting him for ownership of the laundromat, and he's attending college so he won't have to turn tricks to make “ends meet.” Mayoral Candidate James Prince (see?) is having an affaire du coeur with Robbie, not realizing he's a “rent boy.” Robbie's also involved with the wealthy and well-connected Lord Bellingham, but strictly as a client. Though Bellingham himself is smitten, unbeknownst to Robbie.
A show like Soho Cinders reminds us of the delicate chemistry of comedy, how miraculous it feels when the elements combine seamlessly, fortuitously. It pits authenticity and decent behavior against the cynicism and worldly sophistication often cultivated to get on in the world. As any grown-up can tell you, the challenge is avoiding exploitation without turning into a victimizer yourself. You live long enough and begin to believe the corrupt have all the leverage. Soho Cinders spoofs the idea of fairy tales, by placing Cinderella in a tawdry, transgressive realm, it practically celebrates it. Yet mixed in with the satirical songs are heartfelt, wistful and optimistic pieces, as opposed to a show like, say, Sweeney Todd, in which the jaundice increases quickly and exponentially. Soho Cinders manages the difficult task of being sweet and warm at its core, while remaining savvy and urbane.
Soho Cinders pops with a lot of humor, clever songs and outrageously choreographed (Thank you, Director John de los Santos) dance numbers. It has a great, relaxed energy that makes it easy to enjoy, and a fizzy, versatile ensemble. There's something kind of twisted in the way it cheerfully lolls in the the more lurid aspects of a decadent world, but somehow the result is just fabulous. Chock full of giddy mirth and soulful longing. Think of it as an enormous dish of chocolate mousse and dive in!
Uptown Players proudly presents Soho Cinders, playing June 13th-June 22nd, 2014. Kalita Humphreys Campus, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, TX 75219. 214-219-2718. www.uptownplayers.org