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A CurtainUp London London Review
Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity transfers to London's West End
The draft is white people send black people to make war on yellow people to defend the land they stole from red people. — Hud
Sweet Charity
Tiffany Graves as Helene, Tamzin Outhwaite as Charity and Josefina Gabrielle as Nickie (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
On the day when London hears that the tiny 170 seat Menier Chocolate factory in London's Southwark has been nominated for fifteen awards in the Tonys for David Babani's productions of La Cage Aux Folles and A Little Night Music, their production of Sweet Charity makes its glittering West End entrance at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

I had seen it at the end of 2009 and it is every bit as good in the larger theatre and benefitting from some resized props. Remarkably it has lost nothing of the intimacy but, if anything, gained from the slightly deeper and less wide staging. The performances are as strong if not stronger as Tamzin Outhwaite proves she is not only a wonderful actress but a singer and dancer too!

My original review stands. There are no major cast changes but a couple of additional dancers. The things you can look out for are no ballet barre in the "Big Spender" dance number, the boredom is conveyed by acting and new movement, and the song with rarely heard lyrics, "I'm the Bravest Individual" sung by Charity when Oscar is lacking courage and stuck in the elevator and reprised at the end of the show. The ending also is new but I'm not going to spoil it for you by revealing it here! Prepare to see this scintillating Sweet Charity scoop some musical theatre awards in 2010!

Updated Production Notes:
Sweet Charity
Credits as below in the original production
Starring: Tamzin Outhwaite, Mark Umbers, Tiffany Graves, Josefina Gabrielle, Ebony Molina, Paul J Medford
With: Annalisa Rossi, Alexis Owen-Hobbs, Rachael Archer, Jack Edwards, Zak Nemorin, Jez Unwin, Kenneth Avery-Clark, Richard Roe, Richard Jones, Matthew Barrow, Joanna Goodwin, Gemma Maclean, Laura Scott
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0845 481 1870
Booking at the Haymarket to 8th January 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 4th May 2010 performance at the Haymarket, Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
Who dances? We defend ourselves to music! — Nickie
How does the Menier Chocolate Factory do it? How do they produce year after year reliably wonderful musicals that can transfer smoothly to the West End and even Broadway from this tiny venue in Southwark?

This time, Southwark has become New York for a revival of Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Field's musical Sweet Charity about a girl who works as a dance club hostess. It's based on the Fererico Fellini film Nights of Cabiria where the hapless girl who keeps falling in love is a prostitute.

Tamzin Outhwaite is best known as a television actor and although I have seen her in stage roles I had no idea that she was a singer and dancer too. She takes on the role of Charity with a voice with its Brooklyn New Yorkese, with glimpses of Donald Duck. She can sing, dance and act. Joining her as the group of women in the seedy dance club are some brilliant dancers like Ebony Molina, who has long worked with Matthew Bourne, and star singer dancers Josefina Gabrielle and Tiffany Graves. It's an exceptionally strong cast. Mark Umbers plays many of the men in Charity's life, the bag snatching Charlie of the first scene in the park where Charity gets pushed in the lake, the Italian filmstar heart throb, egotistical Vittorio Vidal and the Clark Kent-alike, wimpy Oscar Lundquist.

Stephen Mear has taken Bob Fosse's ground breaking choreography and kept many of the themes but freshened it with some original often balletic moves. The choreography is a triumph. "The Rich Man's Frug" sees Ebony Molina on a silver dress kicking it up and it's sensational, exciting and innovative. The opening number, "Big Spender," is sung and danced in the characteristically jaded fashion as these girls try to attract the 10 cent ticket holders for a dance but are incapable of showing anything except tedium. They are deliciously bored and it's very funny.

Cy Coleman's music has jazzy and blues influence as well as the inspiring ballads. The techno, percussion orchestrations tie in beautifully with the animated choreography and Dorothy Field's lyrics are lively and witty. A live eight piece band provide the perfect accompaniment.

The New York skyline backdrop is like that fuzzy, blue and impressionisti painting of London by Monet — again a fresh view. Fun too is Vitttorio's jokey bedroom with its four poster bed and a movie poster sized portrait of the actor with one simple ornament, an Oscar statuette. The costumes look expensive and are in the era with Charity's little shift dresses and a wonderful selection of hippie outfits with Paul J Medford's big Afro wig for the church scene.

Nickie (Josefina Gabrielle) and Helene (Tiffany Graves), the girls from the dance club sing "Baby Dream Your Dream" about reality and dreams as they remove their makeup at a dressing table, symbolic of who they really are under the cosmetics. My favourite number is the wonderfully anarchic and upbeat "Rhythm of Life" which here sees these very staring eyed hippies in the congregation of this San Francisco originating church led by Daddy (Paul J Medford). We're told that Oscar subscribed to a Church of the Month newsletter which is how he stumbled upon the Rhythm of Life Church. This section doesn't really tie in with the storyline other than giving Charity experience of another subgroup of society but it is so good that who cares whether it is relevant!

This production deserves a transfer to a wider audience and I'm looking forward to seeing it again!

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Sweet Charity
Book by Neil Simon
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Directed by Matthew White
Choreography by Stephen Mear

Starring: Tamzin Outhwaite, Mark Umbers, Tiffany Graves, Josefina Gabrielle, Ebony Molina, Paul J Medford
With: Annalisa Rossi, Jayde Westaby, Rachael Archer, Jack Edwards, Zak Nemorin, Jez Unwin, Carl Sanderson, Richard Roe, Richard Jones, Emma Maclean
Musical Supervision: Nigel Lilley
Set Design: Tim Shortall
Costume Design: Matthew Wright
Hair and wigs: Richard Mawbey
Lighting: David Howe
Sound: Gareth Owen
Orchestrations: Chris Walker
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7907 7060
Booking to 7th March 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 3rd December 2009 performance at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street, London SE1 (Tube: London Bridge)

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