September 23, 2010
The Menier Chocolate Factory’s hit production of Sweet Charity is to close at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
The Tony award-winning musical, which transferred to the West End in April this year from the South London fringe venue, will end its run on 6 November 2010.
The show, directed by Matthew White, features a strong cast including Tamzin Outhwaite, Mark Umbers, Josefina Gabrielle, Tiffany Graves and Paul J Medford.
The Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields musical, with a book by Neil Simon, follows the adventures Charity Hope Valentine and includes well known songs including Hey, Big Spender; If My Friends Could See Me Now and The Rhythm of Life.
September 22, 2010
Theatre Royal Haymarket, Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT
Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo, Piccadilly), Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)
Nearest Buses: 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 24, 29, 38, 40, 88, 91, 94, 139, 159, 176
August 1, 2010
The smash-hit Menier Chocolate Factory production of Sweet Charity transfers to the West End starring Tamzin Outhwaite. A joyous score includes famous numbers Hey Big Spender and The Rhythm Of Life.
May 15, 2010
There was a time, not too many years ago, when the prospect of a home-grown British company reviving a great Broadway musical with enough style, talent and panache to bear comparison with – if not surpass – the original, was unthinkable.
Musicals were just not our thing, and choreographers such as Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse and Agnes de Mille despaired of finding dancers capable of performing their routines in anything other than modified and compromised versions.
Happily all that’s in the past. In the last few years we have, to quote that oft-used but rarely meant cliché, regularly beaten Broadway at its own game. A spate of Sondheim revivals, plus shows such as Hello Dolly!, Carousel and, most recently La Cage aux Folles, definitively prove that anything they can do we can do just as well.
The latest addition to the list is the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’s Sweet Charity.
Obviously, for any production of this perennial 1966 musical to work, whoever plays Charity has, quite simply, to sing as well as she dances and act as well as she sings. Oh, and she’s also got to break your heart.
Gwen Verdon who created the role of the dance hostess with a depressing track record for falling for the wrong men, had all those qualities – and then some!
Forty four years later, Tamzin Outhwaite comes pretty close. She’s not the mega-talent Verdon was, but then who is? And if, in the final accounting, she lacks that extra ounce of vulnerability Charity should ideally possess, she invests so much energy and heart in what must be one of the most demanding female musical comedy roles every written, she pulls it off.
Apart from Charity herself, the show’s other must-have component is its choreography.
Most revivals, understandably, rely on recreating Bob Fosse’s brilliantly original concept – every nuance and gesture of which is built into Coleman’s wonderful score – and vice versa.
Stephen Mears, by far this country’s best musical choreographer, has other ideas. He’s reworked Fosse’s indelible staging of such numbers as Hey, Big Spender, The Rich Man’s Frug, Something Better Than This and the Rhythm of Life (the show’s one expendable number) without violating the spirit of the original so that there’s both a freshness to the routines, as well as a whiff of familiarity. And he’s put together a humdinger of a company, every one of whom is a positive asset.
Indeed, with a cast this good, Mears and director Matthew White have rightly decided to maximise their resources by allowing them to double and treble up, which they do most effectively, none more so than Mark Umbers.
Umbers plays opportunist Charlie, movie idol Vittorio Vidal and the nerdish Oscar Lindquist, the trio of men to whom Charity opens her heart.
In every production I’ve seen these roles are played by three different actors. Umbers takes on the challenge of doing them all himself and especially shines as Vittorio and Oscar. For me he’s the star of a show already bursting with talent.
Neil Simon’s gag-infested book (based on Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria) stands up well, gets the job done and benefits from a tweaked, less whimsical ending than the Broadway original. Cy Coleman’s jaunty score and Dorothy Fields’s terrific lyrics remain in a class of their own.
A helluva revival of a Broadway classic.
CLIVE HIRSCHHORN. Courtesy of This Is London.
May 9, 2010
It’s hard to imagine a theatre in recent memory that has punched so high above its weight than the Menier Chocolate Factory in South London. With news last week that two of its 2009 productions have scored multiple Tony award nominations on Broadway, another Menier musical revival – this time Sweet Charity – has transferred into the West End. And guess what? The critics love it. Across the board the show enjoyed a critical consensus of four stars and much praise for the production and cast – including ex-EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite. See our critical picks below.
“When the show opened at the Menier last year I loved everything about Matthew White’s nifty production apart from one crucial thing. I didn’t think Tamzin Outhwaite cut it in the title role of Charity Hope Valentine, the dance hall hostess with a heart of gold… well what a difference a few months can make. The breezy vitality is still intact when it needs to be but, crucially, Outhwaite has deepened her performance by adding tenderness, pathos, even moments of despair.”
“The show itself is a joy. From the moments you hear the bleary, brassy opening notes of the show’s most famous number, Hey Big Spender, one knows — as the song promises — that one is in for a good time. The band handles Cy Coleman’s outstanding jazzy score with superb panache throughout. The cast do splendid justice to Dorothy Fields’s witty and often touching lyrics and Neil Simon’s gag-filled script, in which he largely avoids the mushy sentimentality that is so often his downfall.”
“Let’s get right to the point: it’s not the greatest musical ever written. Neil Simon’s book is just one thing after another, as Charity is duped by her lover, encounters an Italian movie star and then hooks up with Oscar, all of whom are played by Mark Umbers with a quick-change comic charm. But what the book lacks in structure, it makes up for with snarling humour. The women working at the dance hall, for instance, don’t see their job as dancing but as “defending ourselves to music”.”
“The show’s daffy joy and exhilarating choreography make it easy to overlook the fact that Tamzin Outhwaite’s Charity is too much of a little miss sunshine, never uncovering the vulnerable side that lends the character her wistful charm.”
“Matthew White’s blistering revival – transferring to the West End from the Menier Chocolate Factory – not only retains Neil Simon’s bitter sweet conclusion (another man, another cigarette, another chance) but tightens up the dialogue scenes, so that, for instance, the comedy of claustrophobia and vertigo in the lift and the fairground, is as pointed as in any Mike Nichols and Elaine May sketch.”
“It’s unusual to have such a level of performance in a musical – Umbers was the definitive Freddy Eynsford-Hill in the Martine McCutcheon My Fair Lady – and it raises everyone else’s game, not least Outhwaite’s. She really is a revelation, and Umbers as Superman on the fairground parachute jump, soon reverting to Clark Kent mode, pays her the ultimate compliment of loving her too much to live with her.”
“This is the heterosexual version of La Cage, staffed by equally resilient but even more downtrodden, world-weary sex workers. Matthew White’s production is rooted in a tough sense of reality, and although Tamzin Outhwaite’s punchy Charity may lack an essential vulnerability, she’s also quite clearly one of life’s survivors.”
“Transferring now to this much bigger space, there’s a risk that some of its breezy charm and vibrancy may be lost. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen. Instead there’s a mixture of energy, tuneful sweetness and jagged allure in the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a hostess in a sleazy dance hall in Sixties New York.”
“There’s excellent work around Outhwaite. Annalisa Rossi and Ebony Molina stand out among Charity’s workmates… Mark Umbers is animated as both Vittorio, who gives Charity a taste of the high life, and claustrophobic accountant Oscar, whose nerdy authenticity seems to offer the perfect antidote to her perennial heartache. His voice is shiningly sympathetic.”
“…the music is consistently as atmospheric and tuneful as Stephen Mear’s choreography, though much indebted to the great Bob Fosse, is crisp and lively. Both need to be, because the plot is pretty simple.”
“Outhwaite manages to seem innocent while being knowing, sweet without becoming sentimental, toothy yet not toothsome, artless and gamine but not gormless or goofy, sappy without leaving you feeling there’s no sap in her emotional make-up.”
“Supported by blazing brass from the band, Michael White’ s production does what Breakfast At Tiffany’s couldn’t in the same venue: sets the joint jumping. But there are also shades of Cabaret, Chicago, Hair and The Rocky Horror Show in a performance that feels like five musicals for the price of one.”
December 20, 2009
Feeling spontaneous this Christmas? Then enjoy a very special festive offer from westendtheatre.com. Save £21 on tickets to see the acclaimed new production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the Haymarket Theatre Royal. The offer is valid 23rd to the 26th December matinees and 31st December matinee.
Anna Friel (TV’s Pushing Daisies, Lulu Almeida Theatre, Closer Broadway) stars as Holly Golightly with Joseph Cross (Milk, Flags of Our Fathers, Running With Scissors) as William ‘Fred’ Parsons in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Samuel Adamson’s new stage adaptation of Truman Capote’s classic novella. Sean Mathias directs the second production in his Theatre Royal Haymarket Season.
About the play: New York City, 1943. William ‘Fred’ Parsons, a young writer from Louisiana, meets Miss Holly Golightly, a charming, vivacious and utterly elusive good-time girl. Everyone falls in love with Holly, including William – but he is poor, and Holly needs rich. Will she marry Rusty, playboy millionaire? Or Jose, the future president of Brazil? As war rages in Europe, Holly begins to fall in love with William – and then her past catches up with her…..