I first had the germ of an idea to write a modern Cinderella story in the early 90’s. At the time the story was to be set in a launderette in the East End of London, run by a young single mother who falls in love with a married politician. The pumpkin carriage was to be a London taxi, the fairy godmother a customer who brings a ball-gown to be dry-cleaned. It was to be called Launderella and pretty much all that remains of that treatment is the song “They Don’t Make Glass Slippers.”
It was a few years later, sitting in Hyde Park with George, and basking in the recent success of Honk!, that we revisited the idea. We wanted to write a modern musical fable, loosely based on the fairytale but very London-centric. We decided to make our Cinderella character a young gay guy, Robbie, who works in the city’s most cosmopolitan district, Soho. As Robbie sings, in one of the lyrics:
ALL CITIES HAVE THE SAME
ONE STREET THAT KNOWS NO SHAME
In London, that is Old Compton Street – a glorious melting pot where gay bars, straight bars, theatres, coffee shops and strip clubs sit seemingly happy, side by side. One afternoon we sat in Old Compton Street just watching the tide of interesting characters walking by, and wondering what their stories were.
A first draft of Act One was workshopped at one of London’s top drama schools, Arts Ed, in front of a small invited audience. One member of that audience was Jon Plowman, Head of Comedy at the BBC and producer of Absolutely Fabulous amongst other TV shows. He suggested that it might be better if our ‘Prince’ was a prospective Mayor of London, rather than a politician. We loved the idea and continued working on the show.
After being lured away to work on Mary Poppins, we returned to Soho Cinders in 2008 when a further abridged ‘teaser’ of our musical was performed in concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. I think it was whilst I was narrating that section of the concert that I realised our plot had become overly complicated.
Rewriting a show can be both challenging and exhilarating and, as we approached a further rewrite of Soho Cinders, I suggested that a fresh pair of eyes might be a good idea. My friend Elliot Davis is something of a polymath. He has excelled as a producer, composer, musical director, orchestrator, radio presenter, screenwriter, book-writer and prestidigitator! I suggested that he might be interested in coming on board to co-write the book with me.
What followed was a series of intense bursts of writing activity, usually in my house in France, with George on the piano in the living room, and Elliot and I in the kitchen bouncing what we thought were hilarious ideas off one another. Sometimes we’d go too far, sometimes we didn’t go far enough. The resultant show was performed, with George leading a 16-piece band, at the Queen’s Theatre, London in 2011 as a charity gala concert. It was an amazing and extremely encouraging evening and, as a result of its reception, Soho Cinders was given its first fully staged production in 2012 at, appropriately enough, the Soho Theatre, London, just around the corner from Old Compton Street.
After some further honing to the book we decided to enter the show for the NAMT Festival 2016 and are now thrilled to be able to share some of our musical with a New York audience.
Sept 5th 2016