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Broadway comes to Kenilworth with Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity at the Talisman. Photo © Robert Warner Photography.

Talisman Theatre and Arts Centre, Kenilworth, from 2 October - 7 October 2023.

Review by Ashley Hayward.

It was 1966 when Sweet Charity first appeared on Broadway and I’m sure that the enthusiastic audience at the opening night in Kenilworth in 2023 would agree that it has certainly stood the test of time.

Based around Neil Simon's story with Cy Coleman’s wonderful music accompanying Dorothy Fields' memorable lyrics this musical kept us all engaged from the beginning to its bittersweet ending.

Dancehall Hostesses. Photo © Robert Warner Photography.

The story is all about a New York ‘Dancehall Hostess’, Charity Hope Valentine, and we follow her progress as she desperately seeks love and dreams about a better life.

Sue Randall stars as the warm hearted, generous, ever hopeful, trusting and gullible Charity. She skilfully and faultlessly delivers the often hilarious one-liners as well as tunefully performing the famous songs including a splendid rendition of ‘If they could see me now’. Her expressive face and openness adding to the affection and sympathy that we all felt for her.

Sell out show. Photo © Robert Warner Photography.

Sue was ably supported by her fellow hostesses who impressively manage to sustain their New York accents throughout and demonstrate excellent acting, movement and singing abilities including a version of ‘Big Spender’ of which even Dame Shirley would have been proud!

There were no signs of first night nerves as the entire cast gave energetic and enthusiastic performances with the highlight for me being the performance of ‘The Rhythm of Life‘ led by Mark Randall as Daddy Brubreck.

The songs showed off the colourful and authentic looking 1960’s costumes to great effect and the choreography was highly imaginative and superbly performed.

Broadway hit, Sweet Charity. Photo © Robert Warner Photography.

It was also very much to the Talisman’s credit that such a massive Broadway hit could be delivered on such a relatively small stage with limited resources, and this was helped with a very creative set design and slick scene changes.

The play was, of course, written in a pre-feminist age but it is sad to reflect that, nearly 60 years on, there are still many women across the world who are trapped in comparable situations to Charity and subjected to similar exploitation.

However, the musical is still highly entertaining and, if it was not already a sell-out, I would willingly go and watch it again!

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