“You’re a blockbuster buster”
It’s been five years since the Menier’s glorious revival of Sweet Charity so London has been waiting a wee while for the misadventures of Charity Hope Valentine to return to our stages but with this semi-staged concert version at Cadogan Hall, it’s been largely worth the wait. A cast led by Denise Van Outen, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, and an ensemble of bright young things from ArtsEd Ensemble combine to joyous effect and with barely a week’s rehearsal, it’s all the more impressive for that.
Van Outen makes a great Charity, infusing a wonderfully wry sense of humour into her demeanour which cleverly reinforces her indefatigable spirit. Supremely confident vocals and a smooth move or two in Matt Flint’s choreography make her a constant joy to watch and one could well imagine her nailing the role in a full-blown production too, especially if she were joined by Michael Xavier as the various men she encounters. Never mind the frozen peaches and cream, HE’S the stuff of dreams whether the appealing nerdishness of Oscar or the hapless lothario that is Vittorio, his lusciously rich voice undoubtedly one of the best in British musical theatre.
I was impressed too by Kimberley Walsh (the connoisseur’s favourite Girls Alouder) and Kerry Ellis as Charity’s pals Nickie and Helene, despite memories of the divine Josefina Gabrielle and Tiffany Graves in Southwark. Ellis’ sardonic wit and Walsh’s warmer honesty matched up perfectly, especially in ‘Baby, Dream Your Dream’ and supported by the girls of the ensemble, showed us plenty of fun and laughs as well as a cracking good time in ‘Hey, Big Spender’. Rodney Earl Clarke’s Daddy Brubeck also deserves a special mention for putting a tingle in our collective extremities in ‘The Rhythm of Life’.
Flint’s choreography captured much of the iconic Fosse magic whilst allowing his young team to impress with their exuberance, especially in ‘Rich Man’s Frug’, Richard Balcombe’s spirited musical direction kept Cy Coleman’s inimitable score sounding fresh as a brassy daisy, and stage director Paul Foster made great use of the Cadogan’s upper balcony to add interest to the semi-staging.