Review Roundup: Critics Weigh in on The Donmar's SWEET CHARITY
The Donmar Warehouse announces Artistic Director Josie Rourke's farewell production, Sweet Charity, choreographed by the world-renowned Wayne McGregor, who reunites with Josie after working on her debut film Mary Queen of Scots. Josie returns to the music of Cy Coleman who wrote the score for Rourke's Olivier Award-winning production of City of Angels. The book is by Neil Simon and lyrics by Dorothy Fields.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Andrew Tomlins, BroadwayWorld: Whilst Rourke's production features brilliance, ultimately I was left a little cold by Sweet Charity. I don't think the material stands strong enough on its own, and even a fantastic ensemble, top-notch choreography and magnificent design can't hide the flaws in this piece. Nevertheless, the show-stopping numbers and Duff's heartwarming performance pave the way for an enjoyable evening featuring some musical theatre delights.
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: Can Duff sing? Kinda. What she does so winningly is give every aspect of the part the full emotional welly. It's impossible not to beam at the evident pleasure she is having when she dons a top hat for showstopper If My Friends Could See Me Now; when Charity's romantic hopes crumble, the emotion Duff conveys is raw. This Charity is a living and breathing flawed human being, not a two-dimensional jazz-hands shadow of a character. Arthur Darvill is nicely buttoned-up as Charity's latest paramour, Oscar.
Ann Treneman, The Times: I once went to a musical that had dancing fish dressed in orange bodysuits with neon green frills and gills. Tinsel pretending to be algae were attached to them. I thought, as I watched, that this was the nadir. I would never again see something this odd. But I reckoned without director Josie Rourke's swansong production of Sweet Charity.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: The difficulty with this show lies in finding an alternative to Bob Fosse's original dance style, but Wayne McGregor's choreography does that with great elan: in Big Spender, he has the dancers draped over a set of ladders, using their bodies to taunt their despised customers. But much of the evening's success derives from Duff, who radiates joy in the big numbers, flicking the audience with a silken banner in I'm a Brass Band, while suggesting that Charity's happiness is sometimes hard won. It is an exhilarating performance supported by Arthur Darvill as Charity's unstrung beau, Lizzy Connolly and Debbie Kurup as her supportive chums and Adrian Lester - in a role filled by a succession of starry guests - as a religious hipster. The show may be pre-feminist but, in Rourke's hands, it has the rhythm of life.
Natasha Tripney, The Stage: Some of Rourke's directorial flourishes are sublime, some are ridiculous - some are endearingly Edinburgh fringe-y. It always feels like she's having a good time though. Anne-Marie Duff plays Charity Hope Valentine in a silver mini-dress and fishnets with permanently hopeful smile and a warm unguarded laugh. While her singing lacks technical polish and precision, her voice has a husky, lived-in quality that really suits the role.
Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut: Repurposing the Donmar's bar as a performance space for a ten-piece-band, Rourke has clearly Gone Big, but at the same time the whole thing is possessed with the sense of irreverence, and indeed fun, that has defined her tenure. And let me tell you, fun - which is compatible with depth - is often sorely underrated in the theatre world.
Will Longman, London Theatre: As she bows out as artistic director of The Donmar Warehouse, Josie Rourke is leaving her mark on the classic musical Sweet Charity. She's got the great Anne-Marie Duff making her musical theatre debut in the title role, a stellar roster of talent, and some of the biggest numbers in musical theatre. But, just like Charity, this production never really seems to find its feet as it flits between trying to create a super hip vibe, while keeping its traditional appeal.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson