Sweet Charity - Musical Review

Charity Hope Valentine has a big heart and she's looking for love (or at least someone to whisk her off her feet). Stuck in a dead end job as a taxi dancer in a nightclub, we find her dumped (literally) by her useless 'pair-of-old-socks-and-tube-of-toothpaste' boyfriend.

But Charity is resilient and takes everything in her stride. The other girls at the nightclub all have to make a dime and know that the possibility of escape to better things is pretty remote. However, as our heroine's adventures play out, fate takes her forward. She bumps into a famous film actor who's star is beginning to fall. By a quirk, she ends up in his bedroom somewhat overwhelmed by the spectacle. But things don't work out with him in a particularly amusing manner. By yet another quirk, she becomes trapped in a lift with the nervous Oscar, forging an unlikely friendship. But can she ultimately find true happiness and escape the dog eat dog maelstrom of this big city?

The musical 'Sweet Charity' was based on a Fellini screen play 'Nights of Cabiria'. This original had the protagonist as an ambitious prostitute on the up. In this story however, the writer substituted 'taxi dancer' (a girl who dances with a partner for money). All the same, sex-as-commodity is never far from the surface and this musical, despite its uptempo humorous nature, raises some difficult questions about personal choice and morality.

Adapted by the brilliant Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys and some of Bilko), the music and lyrics are by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields respectively. These include some most memorable of musical numbers like 'Hey, Big Spender' , 'The Rhythm of Life' and 'I Love To Cry At Weddings'. I particularly enjoyed the former in which the taxi girls all line up at the bar and sing to the audience. This was done with both humour and panache.

I've seen the Reading based Sainsbury Singers before and always enjoyed their productions. 'Sweet Charity' was no exception. The casting was pretty good; in particular Lucy Hutson as Charity. I felt she held the show together with her excellent performance. The singing in this production was top quality also. Louise Quelch in particular held her own throughout the show.

'Sweet Charity' was first performed on Broadway in 1966 and indeed this production appears set in that time. However, in terms of dialogue and setting, I felt it had much more in common with tough talking Jazz age America than with the 60s. Of course, the subject matter of a young woman's quest to find love or betterment is universal and as relevant today as ever.

In general, this production got things right. The orchestral accompaniment was good and consistent. I also quite liked the set designs and particularly the costumes. I saw the performance about the third night and it was a shame the audience was a bit thin. Having said that, those who were there seemed to really enjoy the show and commented favourably in the foyer afterwards. In conclusion, a really great interpretation of a classic.

(C) Gideon Hall 2015


Music is by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon. The Sainsbury Singers produced Sweet Charity under licence from MusicScope.

Sweet Charity was produced and directed by Wendy Carne with musical direction by Trevor Defferd, choreography by Denise Schult and lighting design by Kim Hollamby.

Author's review: