Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon’s 1966 musical Sweet Charity is chock full of familiar tunes and the occasional funny frolic, but nearly 50 years on it is showing signs of wear and tear. The story of the eternally optimistic, but forever unlucky in love, dance hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine and her search for the man of her dreams, is well and truly of its era.
The problems with the show lie firmly in the writing, the meandering narrative lacks a natural flow and feels like a series of random scenes tacked on to one another, some also seem unnecessarily long and need judicious cutting, (the elevator scene outstayed it’s welcome by a good 10 minutes) and it doesn’t provide enough reflection or comment on Charity’s situation (it stops short of using the label prostitute but heavily hints at it and we are left in no doubt that these women and their life choices are the lowest of the low. Their characters remaining firmly two-dimensional rather than fully fleshed out). This is a musical from a transition period between the Golden Era of musicals and the more forward thinking modern works to come; aiming to provide something new, but to our modern eyes, unfortunately, it just looks badly dated. For all its faults, the knock-out soundtrack more than makes up for its shortcomings.
Theatre Guild Glasgow manage to do their best with the dated material and have a genuine comic star in the form of Lisa Dutch. Dutch is an absolute delight to watch and has enviable comic timing with a fine set of pipes to match. The ensemble is energetic, enthusiastic and glorious sounding when singing en masse, doing full justice to the irresistible soundtrack. Praise must go to the band too, who are on fine form, sounding sprightly and on point throughout. The technical team also transition smoothly and glitches are rare.
If you want to have fun, a few laughs and a good time then go to see Dutch’s fine central performance and hear these classic tunes, if you want your musicals with a little more substance you might be better to look elsewhere.
Runs until Saturday 10th October 2015