I must admit to being slightly skeptical about this show before I’d even got to the theatre – I’m never normally a fan of the more traditional, old-style musicals. I was prepared to be proved wrong, however, and bought my ticket in high spirits (though if I’m being honest it was only really to see Kerry Ellis and Michael Xavier). This concert production was staged at the ever-lovely Cadogan Hall, and featured an impressive range of names from the West End along with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. All the signs pointed to a great night of musical theatre, but unfortunately nothing could have saved the show from what can only be described as the most awful plot I have ever been witness to.
Here’s where I’d usually write a bit of a synopsis and include some notable moments from the show, but unfortunately Sweet Charity does not afford me that luxury because very little of note actually happens. It follows Charity Hope Valentine (who I took against almost instantly because of her stupid name) who works at a dodgy nightclub as a dancer. It is essentially made up of three parts – part one involves Charity being pushed into a lake (ok then), part two Charity meets a famous movie star (yawn), part three she falls in love then gets dumped (how original). I found myself bored and uninterested in the plot – I often like to actually care what happens next in a show but this didn’t happen in the slightest.
I must pay the show its dues however, it is clearly of its time and I’m sure that if you were around in the 1960s and fancied revisiting one of your faves from back in the day, you’d have been pretty happy with this concert staging. The music was actually alright, I particularly enjoyed There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This and The Rhythm Of Life. Sadly though this couldn’t make up for the awful dialogue which felt unnatural, forced and even just embarrassing at times.
There was also impressive talent on show from the ArtsEd ensemble, all of whom would have probably been more deserved of the lead part than Denise Van Outen (who I have never completely understood the obsession with). West End veterans Kerry Ellis and Michael Xavier were on top form and I wish we’d been able to see more of Ellis as she performed the weak material brilliantly. Denise Van Outen and Kimberly Walsh can certainly both sing, but neither boasted particularly impressive enough acting skills to convince me of the reason they were cast in this being anything other than a marketing tactic.
A perfectly good concert staging of an outdated show, but I wouldn’t be in any hurry to go and see another production of Sweet Charity anytime soon.
Sweet Charity is playing at Cadogan Hall until 22nd August.