Sweet Charity - which has music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and a book by Neil Simon, with original direction and choreography by Bob Fosse - takes a look at the seedy underbelly of 1960s New York. The gullible, enchanting heroine Charity Hope Valentine dances, laughs and cries her way through a series of whirlwind romances to show-stopping numbers including “Rhythm of Life”, “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “Hey Big Spender”.
Charity was originally played by Gwen Verdon on Broadway, Juliet Prowse in the West End (in 1967) and was immortalised in the 1969 film version by Shirley MacLaine. The musical was last revived in the West End in a 1998 production at the Victoria Palace starring Bonnie Langford.
This time round, Tamzin Outhwaite plays the title role, alongside a cast including Mark Umbers, Josefina Gabrielle, Tiffany Graves, Paul J Medford and Ebony Molina (See News, 15 Sep 2009). Matthew White, who steered Little Shop of Horrors from the Chocolate Factory to the West End in 2006/07.
The phrase “Christmas cracker” was used more than once as critics sang the praises of the latest Broadway revival from the “Menier musicals machine”. There was not complete consensus, with Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph suggesting it will struggle to match previous Christmas successes such as La Cage Aux Folles and A Little Night Music. But others raved, particularly Whatsonstage.com's Michael Coveney, who found Outhwaite a “revelation” amid a “truly dynamic ensemble”. Special mentions also went to the “sizzling” choreography of Stephen Mear and the “freshness” of Nigel Lilley's musical supervision.
Theo Bosanquet & Sabine Schereck