BWW Reviews: SWEET CHARITY, Theatre Royal Haymarket, May 4th 2010
My review for Sweet Charity could essentially be summed up in one word: go! But if you're the type of discriminating theatre fan who needs a little more than that, there are plenty of reasons why Sweet Charity should and will have people going back more than once.
It was no secret that on press night the show's star, Tamzin Outhwaite, was unlucky enough to be suffering from bronchitis. While those familiar with her voice may have noticed the difference from her usual standard, in general she gave a good vocal performance and those unaware of her illness could easily have stayed so. However, the real strength of her performance on the night lay in her ability to completely inhabit the character, using in equal measure a combination of great comic timing and subtlety of emotion where it was called for. She clearly put everything she had into her performance and gave a very well-rounded and entertaining portrayal of the show's title character.
However, a successful show is not made by one star alone, and the production boasts a whole host of talented performers. The show's male lead, Mark Umbers, slips flawlessly between a range of different characters, most impressively perfecting not only the characteristics but also the accents of a smooth-talking, Italian film star and a neurotic, claustrophobic New Yorker. So convincing was his transition between two such varying characters that it took me a good 30 seconds to realise that it was actually the same actor.
Josefina Gabrielle, who also plays two differing characters (as do the majority of the ensemble), gave a standout performance. She excelled as the demanding and passionate Italian diva Ursula, but gave an equally entertaining performance as cynical dance-hall regular Nickie. Both Josefina Gabrielle and the impossibly tall and graceful Tiffany Graves prove that not only are they capable of pulling off the big, showstopping numbers, but also that they are equally adept at portraying the quieter and more poignant moments in the show, most notably Baby Dream Your Dream. The ability to add layers to two characters which are predominantly there as cynical, comical contrasts to Charity's determined optimism, is an accomplishment which should not be overlooked. The fact that they are able to do so with such subtlety is even more extraordinary.
In fact, the entire ensemble proved beyond any doubt that they deserved their places in the show, with special mentions going to Annalisa Rossi who seemed to make the audience laugh simply by walking on stage, and Ebony Molina who elicited a number of spontaneous whoops and cheers with her energetic and powerful dance solo as a Frug Girl.
The sets and lighting also work well together to create an absorbing atmosphere for each scene, from a rather sleazy Times Square dance-hall to a film star's luxurious apartment, to a simple elevator (that's a lift to you and me) carriage. Throughout the show, the use of sheer fabrics and simple lighting were used with successful effect, at times helping to enhance the already strong comedic effect of the scene.
All in all, a strong ensemble, a talented principal cast and a generally polished production. I'll definitely be going back.