Star rating – 7/10
Sweet Charity is not my favourite musical by a long way – but I do have fond memories of Shirley MacLaine with her cheery disposition and tear stained face in the classic film version. So I thought I would go along and see if the reviews bore any resemblance to the reality of this West End transfer from the Mernier Chocolate Factory (having obviously forgiven them for their shocking ‘Paradise Found’ - see June '10 review). And I was a bit disappointed to say the least to find out that Tamzin Outhwaite was having a (admittedly probably deserved) night off, and that the role of Charity Hope Valentine was being played by her understudy, Tiffany Graves.
But to be honest, if I hadn’t have known that it wasn’t the ‘real’ Charity, I wouldn’t have guessed it from this accomplished and polished performance. The story is not the strongest one I have ever heard, but it does have an odd bittersweet, then bitter again, quality to it which is a bit different to some of the more saccharine musical themes. Charity is stuck in a dead end job as a dance hall hostess, with terrible taste in men. And the expression to wear your heart on your sleeve could certainly have been coined just for her. She is honest, funny, gutsy, cooky, and vulnerable.
At the start of the show her bounder of a boyfriend pushes her into a lake and steals her handbag and savings. It doesn’t get much better on the boyfriend front for poor old Charity. She has an accidental night of friendship but no passion with movie star Vittorio Vidal, then meets the shy but promising Oscar whilst stuck in a lift. There are some great numbers in the show, my favourites being ‘Hey Big Spender’; ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ and, ‘The Rhythm of Life’. And this cast certainly does them justice, and includes some great dance routines. Mark Umbers very skillfully plays all three of Charity’s boyfriends. And it is good fun, but not much more than that. The plot is still a bit thin, and I suspect neither Tamzin nor Tiffany is a patch on Shirley MacLaine. But I did only pay £10 for my ticket so I’m not complaining.