Sweet Charity was presented by the National Youth Music Theatre at Curve, Leicester.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
In a month other than August, this outstanding production by the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) could have graced the main stage at Curve, where it wouldn’t have been out of place against any of the high-profile musicals for which the theatre is famous. A huge release of youthful energy and talent, it did stormingly well in the studio. I have no idea where they managed to put the 18-strong orchestra, members of which ranged in age from 13 to 22, but the sound was electric.
Hailing from all over the country, many of the cast of 24 have started professional training already or are currently auditioning for drama schools. What a part this was for 18-year old Jade Johnson as Charity Hope Valentine, the ‘Girl Who Wanted To Be Loved’ and who remains undefeated even when she doesn’t get the happy ending.
So easy and natural on the stage, she played Charity with an artlessness that endeared from her first appearance (a defiant flash of scarlet and yellow among the grey raincoats of New York) and handled solo numbers like ‘Big Spender’ and ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ with absolute assurance.
This was the first time NYMT have put on the musical, directed by Lotte Wakeham and choreographed by Lucie Pankhurst. The production beautifully evoked America in the 1960s, not least in the droll and witty use of placards defending civil and women’s rights. Two steely gantries dominated the stage. There were straps hanging on the streetcars and candyfloss at Coney Island, but it was the clever choreography that gave the most insight. Wry, arch and fluently executed throughout, the movement was a running social commentary in itself. Umbrellas were the only prop, creating everything from lakes to wall-mounted telephones.
Plenty of rising stars here, especially among those playing Charity’s fellow dance hostesses at the Flamingo Ballroom. And so many highlights, from a rocking, pulsating ‘Rhythm of Life’ full cast number to a very, very funny ‘I Love to Cry At Weddings’. Altogether exhilarating and it got the rapturous response it deserved.
Cast includes: Jade Johnson, Ruby Ablett, Claire O’ Leary, Tom Robinson, Robin Franklin, Sario Watanabe-Solomon.