Cinderella cast voice anger over cancellation announcement

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

Published
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Carrie Hope FletcherImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Andrew Lloyd Webber's production, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher as Cinderella, opened last August

Cinderella cast members have expressed their frustration after finding out the musical's West End run was cancelled on social media.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's show will end on 12 June, it was announced on Sunday.

But some cast members said they read the news on social media or news outlets before being told themselves.

Lord Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group said efforts were made to "ensure that the message was distributed as widely as possible as quickly as possible".

The theatre impresario said he was "incredibly proud" of the show but has not yet personally commented on the complaints about how the announcement was handled.

No official reason was given for the show's early closure, but the Cinderella website says anyone with tickets for performances after 12 June would not lose their money.

'Heartbroken'

The cast of Cinderella were told about the show's early closure on Sunday afternoon, following a matinee performance.

A message was then sent out to the show's actors and crew with producers thanking them for their "immeasurable contribution to the show" and confirming a statement was was being made to the press shortly.

Media caption,
Cinderella opens in the West End, but it's not what you're expecting

However, some cast members, including the show's star Carrie Hope Fletcher, were absent from Sunday's matinee performance, which meant the story began to appear in the press before all performers had heard the news.

"I wasn't in the show today and I was only informed via other cast members and a member of the music team," Fletcher wrote on Instagram. "I had no official call from the company to let me know before it was posted online."

Furthermore, Cinderella - written by The Crown star Emerald Fennell - was due to welcome a new cast in the coming weeks.

While many members of the current company were told in person, actors from the incoming cast complained that they were not informed at all.

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In a 164-minute video on Instagram, actress Summer Strallen discussed the situation in detail, saying that, while her agent received an email, she "basically got fired by social media, which is just not OK".

She said she recently had a wig fitting ahead of her taking over the role of The Queen from Rebecca Trehearn, and claimed she only found out the show was cancelled when a friend sent her an article on Sunday.

Speaking later to BBC Radio 4's PM programme, she added people working in theatre "feel so disposable" and she feared being "blacklisted" for her Instagram video.

"I just feel so strongly that it's so unfair, not just to the cast but also the front-of-house staff, the backstage crew and the musicians. There has been no regard for that at all," she said.

'Every effort was made'

The Really Useful Group, which is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and produces, licenses and promotes his shows, said it had made efforts to inform actors prior to the announcement, some via their agents.

However, on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend, many agents would not have been checking their work emails, several actors pointed out on Twitter.

In a statement to BBC News, a spokesperson for the Really Useful Group said: "The entire company working yesterday were told in person after the matinee performance. There was no evening performance so this was not before a show last night.

"At the same time as the company were told, everyone not present was called or emailed by the wider RUG team. Every effort was made to ensure that the message was distributed as widely as possible as quickly as possible but clearly we had to move quickly as news was getting out on social media."

Image caption,
Andrew Lloyd Webber said he would risk arrest to put on Cinderella amid a row over lockdown rules in England last year

Lord Lloyd Webber has not personally commented on the way the announcement was handled, but in his initial statement he said he was "incredibly proud of Cinderella".

"Not only did it get some of the best reviews of my career, but we led the charge to reopen the West End, ensuring that theatre and live entertainment remained relevant and in the news," he said.

The composer thanked "everyone involved" in the show, adding that it would now be revamped ahead of a Broadway transfer in March 2023.

But the disappointment and outrage from stars continued on social media over the following hours.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Carrie Hope Fletcher plays the title role in Cinderella - described by critics as having a "snappy contemporary edge"

Strictly Come Dancing finalist and TV chef John Whaite said he was due to join the cast in July and take over the role of Prince Charming and that the cancellation was "heartbreaking".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Alice Fearn, who is currently starring in another West End show, Come From Away, said: "No one, NO ONE should find out a job is no longer going ahead on social media."

An actor in the current cast, Tobias Charles, confirmed they were told on Sunday, adding: "Our support should go to the team replacing us, and those who were extending [their contracts]".

Actress Micha Richardson said: "I can't believe we live in a day and age that we find out that our jobs are no longer happening through social media on a Sunday."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Cinderella opened at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in August 2021 - with its launch impacted by Covid-19 lockdown rules

Outside of the cast and crew, other high-profile figures in the theatre community also expressed their support.

Playwright James Graham said producers should "definitely make sure the people employed hear first" ahead of any closure announcement.

Actor Robert Lindsay said the apparent lack of communication was "shocking and unforgiveable".

Paul W Fleming, the general secretary of actors' union Equity, said in a statement to BBC News: "Equity members made this show. They poured their hearts and skills into it through the worst two years in living memory. Now they're jobless, effectively sacked by press release.

"All unions are fighting forms of this practice right now - and Equity will get compensation for our members after the pain and distress this has caused them."