The Everyman Festival decides to kick it up a gear with its second round, swapping the irreverence of eighteenth century England for the swinging New York sixties. Sweet Charity was an instant Broadway hit when it premiered in 1966 and, as this particular production proves, the show hasn’t aged a bit. Bold themes like the role of women in society and the meaning of love don’t feel dated at all, nor does the excellent songbook.
But a musical is only as good as its cast, and this group of performers had their work cut out in trying to match the energy and dynamism demanded from the script. And match it they do. It’s a brilliant two-and-a-half hours of entertainment, populated from top to bottom with a cast of passionate and driven actors. Certain dance sequences don’t always hit the mark, in part due to the inexperience of some performers, but that lack of experience is made up for with sheer effort and enthusiasm.
While the dancing is shaky, the singing is almost flawless. Iconic numbers like Big Spender and If My Friends Could See Me Now are exquisitely performed, and leading the charge throughout is Charity herself, Helena-May Harrison. Harrison is on stage for almost the entire time, keeping the audience engrossed with her stunning voice and excellent comic timing. Arguably though, the show is stolen by Tim Reynolds, as Charity’s love interest Arnold. His introduction towards the end of a long first half gives the musical a sudden jolt of life, and that momentum carries through to the end of the show.
Sweet Charity is by no means perfect but, like Charity, those warts are part of its charm. The cast and crew have to be commended for successfully presenting an amateur production as a professional one. While the subject matter may not appeal to everyone, it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the excitement and colour of what is an extremely enjoyable musical.