Sweet Charity

OLIVIA BELL is underwhelmed and disappointed by a show that had so much promise, but delivered such limp results.

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There’s a reason that Sweet Charity isn’t the best known musical around town.

The music is upbeat but, aside from the standouts ‘Rhythm of Life’ and ‘Big Spender’ (which actually work better performed individually, untainted by the work), not memorable or exciting; the dialogue is amusing but not hysterical, the plot a less sexy Cabaret.

And unfortunately, CUMTS’s spectacle was equally underwhelming, despite an absolutely stunning performances from Charity (Rosalind Peters), brilliantly supported by George Longworth (Vittorio Vedal/Daddy Brubeck) and Tom Beaven (Oscar).

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In an extraordinarily ambitious move, director Tania Clarke cast what must be one of the biggest ensembles an ADC main show has ever held. On occasion the crowd of scantily clad dancers was a success; just as frequently, it turned into an arm flailing mass mess on stage.

Clearly a phenomenal choreographer, Emily Davey’s impressive vision was let down by the lack of room on what is a limited space even before the pit is opened up. Sharp and clever hair flicks and the use of ribbons became all too often a visual onslaught.

Awkwardly, one wasn’t sure whether the dancers had been told to look vacant as a stylistic move or whether this was due to their intense concentration in trying not to knock each other off the stage into the band.

Some dancers stood out; Megan Henson’s Carmen was constantly visually interesting, and Caroline Sautter (Nickie) and Sarah Mercer (Helene) played well off each other. But in general, the problem was not with the larger general dance troupe but with the smaller ensemble, who lacked energy and focus, although the second act was markedly better than the first.

There were flashes of promise; The Rhythm of Life was exciting and electric, and there were moments when the dancing girls did manage to look sexy rather than just furious, but these were too few and far between to salvage the chorus work.

The real stars of the show are the principals, and these are no small parts. Charity lives up to her name – her singing was sweet but had enough grit to be endearing rather than nauseating, and the deliciously camp Vittorio was both vocally exceedingly strong and physically entrancing.

The moments where the musical worked best were when these forces played off against each other; Beaven and Peters’s elevator scene was a delight, as was the closet scene in Vittorio’s apartment with Ella Duffy (Ursula). The real wow was Longworth’s cameo as Daddy Brubeck, which was surely Broadway worthy.

It was moments like these that redeemed the half-hearted, sloppy scene changes, the faults with the lighting cues, and the diabolical set – it was either half finished, or exceedingly low budget.

Sweet Charity is a difficult work which on this occasion was let down by over-ambition and some unfortunate technical problems (making the bizarre ending even weirder). But for the moments of true genius, this CUMTS show is surely worth a see.

Three stars