There are times when watching a show that you begin to wonder how such a show ever got produced in the first place, Sweet Charity newly transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket is one of these. Lifeless, half-hearted, and shoved on the stage as if told it must perform every night for the rest of eternity – it is quite frankly a dull night in the West End.
Maybe I have no heart anymore, and my expectations of musicals are high – but when it comes across that the cast just aren’t giving any energy or life into the songs, you begin to wonder if it isn’t the production itself that is letting everyone down. The story has everything to offer for it, a young girl caught in the trap of working as a dancing hostess in a sleazy dance hall dreams of bigger things – or rather, dreams of getting whisked away by her prince charming. Three men later, and regardless of where love might be, Charity Hope Valetine, is just not meant to find that love of hers.
Tamzin Outhwaite has everything of her naive and hopeful character in the bag – she looks the part, sings every song note perfect and can even deliver a high kick on time in every song. Outhwaite doesn’t however do anything else for me. As the character of Charity, she is just playing the part. Lacking depth and emotion, she is perfect on the outside and dead everywhere else. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt it is Outhwaite herself who isn’t performing beneath the exteirer – the blame, I am sure lies with Matthew White as director for not realising the potential that Outhwaite has to offer.
In fact, the whole production which got rave reviews at the Meiner Chocolate Factory has lost all sense of life in the dominating stage at the Haymarket. White’s direction is drab, drawing the plot thinly out over the night, and loses all sense of determination and drive in his performers. Scenes even played with the full ensemble lacked anything for the audience, and sadly I really wanted to enjoy myself but how could I when so little was offered?
Stephen Mear’s choreography manages to capture the right essence of the era, and compliments the music lovely – but there is nothing to really make your eyes tingle with excitement. The ensemble brace Mear’s choreography well, and if anything can move effectively together. Mark Umbers who manages to play each of the three men that Charity falls for, is a delight in characterising each contrasting character – especially that of Oscar Lindquist. Yet, even trapped in an elevator with Outhwaite, the action is stretched to a rambling series of actions that become tiresome like most of the show.
Sweet Charity does have some wonderful songs in – timeless songs even. Who can deny that The Rhythm of Life isn’t a classic musical number or even Big Spender made famous by Shirley Bassey doesn’t drum up the heart of any musical listener, but when played in context it becomes such a disappointment. The dance hostesses sing their Big Spender song with such boredom (which does work well in the context of the show – dancing for men isn’t exactly what they want), but really ends up echoing my thoughts entirely: “Do you wanna have fun? / How about a few laughs” – well yes, I would like some fun and some laughs but they certainly are not coming from this show.
Sweet Charity is booking at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 8th January 2011. For more information and to book, see the official Sweet Charity West End website.