Sweet Charity was performed at the Cadogan Hall, London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
As this year’s summer musical, the Cadogan Hall treated us to a concert version of Sweet Charity, just five years after the last London revival of this classic show transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the Haymarket. Adapted by director and choreographer Bob Fosse from the Fellini movie Nights of Cabiria, the show was initially a star vehicle for his wife and muse Gwen Verdon and later showcased the talents of such legends as Chita Rivera, Juliet Prowse, Debbie Allen, Ann Reinking, Donna McKechnie, and in the the then overlooked but now cult movie version, the unforgettable Shirley MacLaine.
Now for Charity, being first and foremost a dance show, forever linked to the choreography of Fosse, a concert version might seem an odd choice, but though not really fully staged, this version was definitely much more than just a concert. The amazing dancing chorus of the Arts Ed Ensemble, impeccably drilled by choreographer Matt Flint, gave us somewhat abridged, but cleverly staged versions of the famous production numbers. ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ and ‘Big Spender’ succeeded in venturing outside of the Fosse vocabulary, although ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’ disappointed a little, but on the whole isn’t it huge credit to the greatness of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’ score that Sweet Charity can do without the shadow of the great Fosse?
Stripped from its iconic visuals, Coleman’s music and Fields’ lyrics stand as some of Broadway’s finest, and it was a special thrill to hear the score in all its greatness, played by the 22-piece Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, using the original orchestrations.
As Charity, Denise Van Outen delivered a commanding performance in a challenging role, and her love of the material was obvious throughout. Soon to be seen in ELF, Kimberley Walsh and the always excellent Kerry Ellis provided high calibre support as sidekicks Helene and Nickie, delivering a showstopping and heartfelt ‘Baby, Dream Your Dream’, one of the best songs of the show, not heard in the movie version.
Rodney Earl Clarke stepped successfully into the shoes of legendary Sammy Davis Jr with a powerful rendition of ‘The Rhythm of Life’, one of the show’s overlooked numbers, which gave its title to a recent Cy Coleman tribute show at the St James Theatre.
But the evening belonged to multi-talented Michael Xavier in the roles of Charlie, Vittorio Vidal and Oscar Lindquist! ‘Too Many Tomorrows’ and the title song never sounded better and what an actor and what charm.
* Readers may also be interested in:
Rhythm of Life: Cy Coleman – A Celebration in Song –St James Studio – Review