Review. Sweet Charity. Nottingham Playhouse

Along with the recent arrival of its new Artistic Director, Adam Penford, Nottingham Playhouse is celebrating 70 years of artistic success. Not only that, Nottingham Playhouse have created their first in-house musical production in 10 years. That’s throwing down quite a big theatrical challenge to themselves. Therefore, it seems fitting that the chosen musical should be Sweet Charity. It’s a story of hope, determination and drive, about real people living normal lives, but presented in an exhilarating musical comedy with big songs, stunning dance routines and lots of heart. This is a sparkling, high-octane production, pulsing with the ‘rhythm of life’.

Sweet Charity was a Broadway hit before being made into the renowned film starring Shirley MacLaine as Charity Hope Valentine. In this excellent production, Rebecca Trehearn makes the hapless Charity entirely her own: she is kooky, charming and relatable, battling against the odds of a lousy job, some crummy boyfriends and an overly-generous personality.

She dreams of more from life but has neither the education nor the opportunity to do much about it. Despite this, Charity’s sense of humour, passion for life and gritty demeanour means she dusts herself down after every adversity and begins all over again. Rebecca Trehearn as Charity is a total knock-out. Hers is a  bold, uninhibited, and a bravura performance.  

The part of Oscar Lindquist, an accountant who Charity accidentally gets stuck in a lift with, is a great comedic turn from Marc Elliott, better known from his role on Eastenders.

The sense of rising panic as Oscar’s claustrophobia threatens to overwhelm him is palpable and Elliott produces some brilliant physical comedy in this tiny space. His  lovably neurotic relationship with his Sweet Charity is very believable.

Charity’s friends, Helene and Nickie (Carly Mercedes Dyer and Amy Ellen Richardson) provide further comic entertainment and emotional involvement with the wishful ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’. And Jeremy Secomb, as aging actor Vittorio Vidal, wrings every ounce of comedy from his ‘bedroom farce’ scene, whilst also delivering a romantic song beautifully. No small thing – but this hardworking small cast of fifteen work tirelessly in many guises throughout the show.

Originally choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, the show is a vehicle for some outstanding ensemble set pieces. An instrumental number, ‘Rich Man’s Frug’, captures the essence of the swinging 60’s, and Choreographer Alistair David uses many of Fosse’s signature moves whilst also making it feel contemporary and up to date. The energy, tightness and precision of the dancers is stunning.

The iconic ‘Hey Big Spender’ is presented entirely afresh and shows how cleverly this number, and much of the show, has been tweaked by Director Bill Buckhurst to bring it up to date. Gone are the outmoded pouting, alluring girls trying to attract attention. In this they are replaced with a funny, frank and derisive version of the song that only serves to highlight the strength and gutsiness of the women. And it’s still damn sexy.

The 9 piece on-stage band rip through the joyous music with clear enjoyment and Caroline Humphris as Musical Director extracts the ‘big band’ sound from them with great skill.  The band are cleverly positioned as part of the set – and what a set! Designed by takis, every part of the stage seems to move, turn, slide or drop to create the many different scenes. Along with kaleidoscopic lighting (Joshua Carr) and tight sound (Emma Laxton) the stellar combination produces a very polished, high quality show.

This production is indeed a fitting celebration for Nottingham Playhouse! It is a vibrant explosion of colour, energy and style, with dance routines to take your breath away. It has overflowing  bags of humour and dazzling music. Book a ticket now and feel the ‘rhythm of life’.  

Reviewer: Kathryn McAuley.

Sweet Charity runs at Nottingham Playhouse until Sat 22 September 2018.

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