There can be few not aware of the story of Sweet Charity, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon; its songs (‘Rhythm of life,’ ‘Big spender’ and ‘If they could see me now’) and superb dance routines, are the stuff of legends. Therefore, it is a brave company indeed that decides to perform one of Bob Fosse’s masterpieces in a small school theatre in Ringwood. However, I’m delighted to say that this production by RMDS was entirely delightful and a joy to watch.
The story is simple. An ever-optimistic dance-hall worker, Charity, in her search for love and an escape from her job, eventually finds herself a match with the reserved Oscar Lindquist. Will it be a happy ending?
The cast did indeed seem to struggle with the usual lack of men, most notably in some of the dance numbers, but for those not aware that these routines were more evenly sexed, it probably looked fine. Jane Howell, the director and choreographer, clearly worked very hard to get the best out of the performers and they certainly gave it their all. There were many lovely moments and costumes were brightly authentic. The music was well performed by the orchestra, in the safe hands of musical director Jonathan Spratt.
The performers themselves were all really rather brilliant, with Abbie Guy quite rightly stealing the show as the vivacious and adorable heroine, Charity Hope Valentine. She really does have a marvellous voice and acted the part beautifully. Her two good friends, Nickie and Helene (Stephanie Jones and Louise Daly) were a close second and their wonderful duet, ‘Baby, dream your dream’, was certainly one of the highlights of the show: no mean feat, when it is one of the lesser-known songs. Vittorio Vidal was gloriously performed by Andy Steeds and reminded me constantly of Ricardo Montalban from the movie version. Charlie Daniels played the rather annoying Oscar Lindquist, the final love interest for Charity, and did so very well.
There were many smaller roles, too many to mention (although a name-check must go to Ethan Wilkinson for his exuberant Daddy Brubeck in ‘Rhythm of life’), but all were played to a high standard. I was particularly impressed with how the chorus mucked in with little lines and parts here and there throughout the show – it really was a team effort and it showed.
My only criticism would be that the staging suffered at times from a lack of spots, particularly in the opening routine with Charity, which would have benefited from some clever lighting rather than the poor girl alone on a sparse, brightly lit stage.
I thoroughly recommend that you go to see this lovely musical – the dances are brilliant, the singing great and Abbie Guy is a true star in the making. It runs 19-21 April at 7.30 and 22 April at 2.00 and 7.30.