The Theatreguide.London Review
Donmar Warehouse Spring 2019
This revival of the
1966 Broadway hit (music Cy Coleman, lyrics Dorothy Fields)
frequently rises to the level of adequate and occasionally even
higher. But it too infrequently comes fully alive, and is not likely
to linger in the memory.
Neil Simon's book is
based on an idea by
director-choreographer Bob Fosse to adapt a Federico Fellini film
into American terms, the Italian whore with a heart of gold
domesticated into a romantic dance hall hostess.
The score is a strong
with numbers like Hey Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now,
The Rich Man's Frug and I'm A Brass Band that, largely on the memory
of Bob Fosse's staging, have retained status in the Broadway songbook
for over fifty years.
The Donmar Theatre has
had success in the past
with such musicals as Company and Pacific Overtures.
But they were
essentially chamber pieces, and Sweet Charity belongs to the big,
brassy razzmatazz Broadway tradition. On the Donmar's small stage
what are meant to be big production numbers look either too sparse or
production and Wayne McGregor's
choreography bravely try to escape the shadow of Bob Fosse's iconic
originals (Quick – think of the brassy opening vamp of Hey Big
Spender. See Fosse's dancers?).
But they don't seem able
quoting him visually, most obviously in Hey Big Spender, The Rich
Man's Frug and If My Friends Could See Me Now. And let's face it –
Fosse was the greater choreographer, and the reminders of his imagery
just make the parts that are wholly McGregor's seem paler.
gift from me to you. Go to YouTube and watch the movie version of The
Rich Man's Frug. You'll thank me.)
As Charity Hope
hopeless romantic who retains a core of innocence, this production
stars Anne-Marie Duff, better known as a National Theatre classical
actress (Macbeth, St Joan, etc.).
Duff is an
than a singer, meaning that the voice may not be a show-stopper but
that she finds drama and emotions in the songs that others might
Duff is the first I've
seen to catch and convey just a hint of
pathos in Charity's celebration of an unexpectedly happy twist of
fate in If My Friends Could See Me Now, and if she milks the emotion
of Where Am I Going a bit much, at least she doesn't gloss over it.
Duff is even less a
natural dancer than singer, and you are too often
aware of the chorus dancing around her to disguise the fact that
she's not doing much. Through the distance of time I can still see
Gwen Verdon owning the stage in If My Friends Could See Me Now and
I'm A Brass Band, but Duff is hardly noticeable even while you're
Martin Marquez is
amiable as Vittorio, the movie star
who gives Charity a glimpse of the high life, but Arthur Darvill is a
bit too invisible as the Nice Guy who seems for a while to offer a
A production gimmick has a string of guest stars popping up to play Big Daddy, the jazzy evangelist, and this week Adrian Lester legitimately stops the show by bringing more energy and star power to Rhythm Of Life than is to be found anywhere else in the evening.
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