Review: Sweet Charity

WELL this show will get audiences talking. Sweet Charity is Ilkley Playhouse’s annual musical produced by the established creative team of David Kirk, Ted Oxley Kirk and Cathy Sweet, and what a show it is.

From the word go this production has the power to entrance or repel as scantily clad ladies of all shapes and sizes line up to be ogled at by male punters and the front rows of the audience alike. Sweet Charity is set in a seedy dance bar and the eponymous character is one of the hostesses. Charity, played by Joanna Clark, is seeking to escape from her rather sordid existence and, Cinderella-like, find a new life, with a new man. Her early attempts with Charlie and Vittorio Vidal, both played energetically and with great comedy by Mark Simister, are thwarted. Eventually meeting the lovely Oscar Lindquist (also Mark Simister), following the ‘fickle finger of fate, she hopes that her luck has changed.

The set has revolving elements which make it a versatile space, creating street scenes, apartments, fairgrounds, a ‘church’ and frequently the ballroom which is painted raunchy red and lurid purple. It is here that we encounter the women of the last chance saloon – quite deliberately these are not nubile young women but experienced ladies of the night, seen it and done it all before. It is obvious why Charity, in her own words ‘a virgin in the most poetical sense of the word’, wants out and Joanna Clark conveys both longing and a certain naivety compellingly.

There is excellent mannered and angular choreography in many of the musical numbers, strikingly in ‘Something Better Than This’ when the cast throw out shapes which are almost robotic. However, there are few big chorus numbers in this musical and in, arguably, the most lyrical song, The Rhythm of Life, it seemed that the choreography had taken precedence over the singing.

There are some great cameo roles in this show – Bruce Sturrock as nightclub owner Herman, is entirely seedy and grubby. Katrina Wood and Susan Wilcock make a fantastic couple of hopeless harlots in their duet ‘Baby Dream Your Dream’. The overall appearance of this show is powerful and striking – at times it’s like Cabaret meets Woodstock; at others it’s more Traviata.

Don’t expect to leave this show with a feel-good ending, with its Sixties setting it’s more complicated than that. It runs until 16th June.

by Becky Carter