This musical follows the unlucky in love Charity a dancer-for-hire at Times Square Dance Hall. The musical begins dramatically with Charity being pushed in the lake and robbed by her boyfriend Charlie (whose name she has tattooed in a heart on her left arm). The rest of the show revolves around Charity as she continues to try and find the one, as all she wants is to be loved. Charity’s luck seems to change after she gets stuck in a lift with nervous and shy tax accountant Oscar. Although through embarrassment Charity hides her true profession from Oscar, which leads to trouble.
The Broadway musical of the 1960s seems dated with its reliance on Charity looking for a man to complete herself, yet always being left broken hearted. Yet the vision of director Derek Bond, acknowledges these draw backs and produces a production that pulls on your heart strings, whilst also delivering on the comedy side it is so well known for.
The comedy musical is a roaring success not least because of the strength of the cast. Kaisa Hammarlund as Charity is superb, with outstanding characterisation and comic timing. Hammarlund really created a connection with the audience, so you experienced the high and lows with the character. The rest of the cast all delivered stellar performances, particularly disgruntled dancers Cat Simmons and Holly Dale Spencer, and the endearing Daniel Crossley as Oscar. A special mention to Josie Benson who took on the traditionally male role of Daddy Brubeck and made it her own, providing further proof in the success of blind casting in regards to ethnicity and gender.
As with any Royal Exchange production the staging was excellent, with seamless set transitions. The production is really grounded and brought to life by its musical numbers and the band does a terrific job of delivering Broadway pizzazz to Manchester. Stand out numbers being ‘Big Spender’, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ and ‘The Rhythm of Life’.
One of the best visual elements of the show, and there were many, was the depiction of Charity and Oscar becoming stuck on a Parachute Jump ride. The use of tiny props to indicate how high up the couple were was genius. The show was scattered with visually brilliant moments.
I have never seen a musical performed in the round before and it certainly adds a new dynamic to the production. Sweet charity performed at the Royal Exchange is more intimate than most musicals, this just means the audience feel more connected to the characters and really invest in the musical.
If you aren’t familiar with the musical the end certainly comes as a shock, but is also the moment where I most identified with the character of Charity. I won’t divulge any further as I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Let’s just say Charity finally learns a valuable lesson about love and self-worth.
This toe tapping musical will have you laughing and gasping. Sweet Charity is being performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre till the 28th January. Get your tickets here.
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