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REVIEW: Ugly! A Cinderella Story (Cumbernauld Theatre)

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

2 December 2023

Cumbernauld Theatre at Lanternhouse

Ugly! A Cinderella Story, Cumbernauld Theatre, by Gary McNair

I love stories like this: clever writing that shine a light on a familiar character that we *think* we know so well. Along the same lines as Wicked, or Unfortunate, but here one of the 'Ugly Sisters' has her moment in the spotlight.

Fed up of being on the sidelines, Cinderella's step sister Chantelle is ready for her main character moment. She's crabbit, she's mean; but is there more to her story? Teamed with a confused Fairy Godmother who's trapped in 'Wondernauld', Chantelle discovers who she really is, as she searches for her own 'Happily Ever After.'

The small company are great, with the brilliantly nasty 'Maw' played by Jo Freer, and the beautiful and gentle Cinderella by Eva Beattie. Both the bonkers Fairy Godmother, and the not so charming prince are brought to life by the fantastic Lawrence Boothman. The Fairy Godmother brings all the energy to the show and was a huge hit with the audience.

Taking the lead as 'ugly sister' Chantelle, the divine Lauren Ellis Steele proves yet again that she belongs centre stage. Her gorgeous voice and charm ensure the audience are routing for her from the start. It's impossible to believe that Lauren would ever be considered ugly; she's one of the most strikingly beautiful human's I've ever seen... So we must understand that it's her behaviour that's ugly.

The company all do a great job with the exaggerated characters and make the play feel like there's more than just the four of them on stage.

Lauren Ellis Steele and Jo Freer in Ugly! A Cinderella Story, Cumbernauld Theatre, by Gary McNair. Photo: Sally Jubb

Written by the outrageously talented Gary McNair (Dear Billy, Nae Expectations), the script is of course inventive and hilarious. But when translated to the theatre stage, it lacks some of the magic and cheer that I'm looking for from a festive production.

The show does have a limited budget, but it is very dialogue-heavy and some scenes - particularly in the first half - simply run too long to hold the audience's attention. I'm sorry to say that many of the youngsters in the theatre were not engaged. If these scenes could be split up with some dancing or some silliness, that may help. It's so difficult with budget constraints, I do understand. And a tricky balance between storytelling, a child-friendly runtime and fun.

To be fair to Cumbernauld Theatre, their marketing material does state that this show is for ages 7+ and the auditorium was filled was lots of very much younger kids. One for the parents to consider! This show maybe not ideal for your tiny tots (see Cumbernauld's other festive offering: 'A Ladder to the Stars' aimed at ages 3-7).

Lawrence Boothman in Ugly! A Cinderella Story, Cumbernauld Theatre, by Gary McNair. Photo: Sally Jubb

Featuring great original songs by Brian James O'Sullivan, there were perhaps just a few too many ballads in Act II that had the kids fidgeting in their seats. They are beautiful, and all delivered with humour and a confident local accent, but the undoubted hit of the night was the upbeat title track 'Wondernauld.'

There are some strong messages at the heart of this story, and as always at Cumbernauld theatre, the sound, the lighting, all technical aspects of the production are exemplary. The adults in the audience adored the show and it must be brilliant to have a festive production not only presented, but set in your home town. I heard 'Wondernauld' being sung in the car park as I left! I don't doubt the team here have created a new anthem for the town that will be sung for years to come.

Director Jo rush said: “We are so excited to bring this brand new twist on the Cinderella story to Cumbernauld this Christmas. We are incredibly lucky to have Lauren, Jo, Lawrence, and Eva - a totally hilarious and talented ensemble of actors, on board to help us bring to life Gary and Brian’s silly yet heartfelt story and songs for all of our brilliant audiences.”

(Scroll to the end to find more reviews featuring some of this great cast and crew!)

📸 Production photos: Sally Jubb

The cast of Ugly! A Cinderella Story, Cumbernauld Theatre, by Gary McNair. Photo: Sally Jubb



  • Sat 02 – Sat 30 December | Times vary

  • Relaxed Performance on Sat 09 December (11am)

  • BSL/Audio Described Performance on Thu 21 December (7pm)

  • Ticket prices: £14 - £25

  • For a list of school performances please contact the box office on 01236 732887

  • For tickets and full listings information call the box office on 01236 732887 or visit



Chantelle – Lauren Ellis Steele

Maw – Jo Freer

Fairy Godmother/Prince – Lawrence Boothman

Cinderella – Eva Beattie


Written by Gary McNair

Directed by Jo Rush

Composer - Brian James O'Sullivan


🌟 REVIEW: Ugly! A Cinderella Story at Cumbernauld Theatre, by Gary McNair 🌟

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.

📧 For media and review requests contact

💗 To see more pictures and videos follow @Lisa_InTheTheatre on Instagram

Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.


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