THURSDAY 8TH DECEMBER 2016 – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – Review by Tate James, originally written for The Reviews Hub

This musical theatre comedy makes a sweet Christmas treat at the Royal Exchange. When Sweet Charity burst onto the Broadway Stage in the 60s, it encapsulated the spirit of the decade and, 50 years later, it still charms and delights as we follow our happy-go-lucky heroine: Charity Hope Valentine. With tattooed heart on her arm and metaphorical heart on her sleeve, she dreams of leaving her job as a gentlemen’s club dancer to live the perfect married life.

Director Derek Bond’s work is a masterclass in how to stage musical theatre in the round, maximising the use of James Perkins’ classy set design and enjoying every moment of comedy in Neil Simon’s book. Under the musical supervision and direction of Nigel Lilley and Mark Aspinall respectively, Cy Coleman’s brassy jazz score is brought to life by the 9-strong band and the incredible vocal prowess of the talented company. Previous incarnations of Sweet Charity bring to mind the abstract and wonderful choreographic imagery of Bob Fosse’s work. As Fosse did before her, Aletta Collins’ new exciting choreography adds an edgy realism to the story, bringing to life every nuance in the music.

Bob Harms as Latin Lothario Vittorio Vidal is on fine form in pink, with stunning vocals and comedic timing, and Daniel Crossley is utterly charming as Oscar. Holly Dale Spencer’s Nickie plays mother and best pal with real heart and Josie Benson’s rendition of Rhythm of Life as Daddy is outstanding.

The success of this particular musical is, however, down to its leading lady and the Royal Exchange has pulled a Christmas Cracker this year in Kaisa Hammarlund as Charity. Commanding the role, with an audience in the palm of her every jazz-hand, Hammarlund sings and dances beautifully around the circular space with grace and wild abandon in equal measure, as she captures the essence of Charity and the hearts of the audience.

You don’t need to be a Big Spender to enjoy this superb adaptation that is guaranteed to send you home with a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet.

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