Review: Sweet Charity

Spring term sees the long awaited return of the Central Hall Musical Society’s main show – Sweet Charity

Directed by Nicki Gaskin, Sweet Charity follows Charity Hope Valentine (Rachel Higgs) as she falls in love repeatedly. She is naïve, impulsive and optimistic, with her we visit many different facets of 1960s America, including the hostess ballroom where she works, Hollywood glamour, underground rhythm and blues churches.

All the ingredients were put together, waiting to be presented in the right way, but the show missed it ever so slightly

To those who don’t know the musical already, the ending is rather unexpected, a definite departure from a typical ending. Unfortunately, this edition rather lacked the impact it needed, leaving a feeling of confusion rather than shock. Everything was there for a moment of emotional intensity, of optimism and hope, and yet it lacked the oomph to bring it completely across. It was, in fact, a recurring theme in the whole performance. It took some time for the whole piece to completely take off and engage the audience. This may have been down to confidence and assurance – always an opening night worry. If the cast had all come together earlier with energy, confidence, and a sense of fun, the show could have hit the next level of grace, but the opening night was slightly underwhelming and somehow slow. The main theme of innocence and hope was not completely apparent during the performance, as if the cast were not a hundred percent sure what the aim of the story was they were telling. All the ingrediets were there, waiting to be presented in the right way, but the show missed it ever so slightly.

It remains, however, a highly capable performance, with every element obviously well thought out and a lot of hard work and creativity clearly visible. Despite a few minor hiccups, Becca Adam’s choreography was fun and quirky. It made great use of the cast and the space whilst remaining truthful to the text and the musical. The performers themselves were confident, and played with the audience delightfully. Phill Cato’s work on lighting design must also be mentioned; although there were some technical issues at times, it was beautifully carried out and aided the show greatly.

The special mention here must go to the elegant and gorgeous costumes

The script is full of comic moments, which were played seamlessly by the cast. Even the most trivial characters fit perfectly to their roles and entertained the crowd with limited stage time. It was very refreshing to see such high level of emphasis being put into the secondary characters, such emphasis placed on characters which often run the risk of being overshadowed by the principle roles”. Higgs, in the leading role, carried her solo numbers with gusto, and created a very believable character. Admittedly, Charity is rather irritating at the start of the play: just a little too naïve to be likeable. However, her character progresses, and we care more and more about the outcome of her meanderings as she gains assurance and hope.

The special mention here must go to the elegant and gorgeous costumes. Not only did they helped to tell the story in a very clear way, the amount of small details offered were incredible, and well integrated into the show. The whole aesthetic in fact, was coherent and seamless: not only there was no incoherencies, but everything actively worked together. In regard to the venue, Central Hall is a challenging place to fill, but the set design coped with that gallantly and surprisingly. Set changes were efficient and the use of space was innovative. Again, the standard was set high, with everything polished and thought out.

Photo by Joe Mackenzie
Photo by Joe Mackenzie

Overall, though I have my reservations, CHMS has again proved that they are capable of working to a high and polished standard, and offering an aesthetic and enjoyable evening. There were smiles on audience’s faces as we left the hall, and Sweet Charity will leave you with a warm feeling. It is full of potential and, with high hope, it will become even more so as the run continues and settles into a smoother rhythm.

*Feature photo courtesy of Central Hall Music Society.

*Tickets can be purchased here.