Sweet Charity @ Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Music Theatre's embrace of the darkness lends their production of Sweet Charity a depth under the showbiz glamour

Review by Carmen Paddock | 24 Apr 2019
  • Sweet Charity

The iconic Bob Fosse, Cy Coleman and Neil Simon musical following a dance hall hostess’ unlucky love life – notably two disastrous boyfriends/almost husbands in quick succession, with a glamorous fling in between the two – seems to be having a resurgence recently. Thankfully, Edinburgh Music Theatre’s (EMT) production is a worthy rendition. Choreographer Morgan Scott keeps Fosse’s iconic steps fresh with the enthusiasm of her cast and an assured sense of rhythm; Big Spender, Rhythm of Life, and I’m A Brass Band are standout moments, notably the skilful tap in the last number.

Charity (Emma Watson) captures the title character's confounding naivete and constant hope for love that never contradicts her worldliness and sexuality. Watson pulls the audience in a through her confident physicality and fourth-wall breaking glances (her comic timing in Vittorio’s bedroom is superb), keeping them firmly on her side through the powerhouse numbers and bad decisions. The rest of the cast are also exceptionally talented singers and dancers; standouts include Lauren McAnna’s Nickie, Susanne Horsburgh’s Helene, and Jack Bruce’s Daddy Brubeck.

The scene changes – especially in terms of some noisy rolling sets – distracted when carried out in the background of songs. That aside, the set’s suggestion of place with only the necessary props (not to mention evocative lighting) keeps the pacing tight as Charity and co make their way around New York City. The setting is also aided by the fact that the team have opted for broad New York (or Italian, depending on character) accents.

The relevance of Sweet Charity may have changed somewhat since its 1966 premiere and 1969 film adaptation. In EMT’s programme, director Louise Sables notes that she feels this story has relevance as the tale of that "frustrating friend" who cannot see her own strengths yet. Watching Oscar (the final boyfriend/almost husband played by Fraser Shand) leave Charity heartbroken over her sexual history, with Charity’s grief and the almost-upbeat resignation that ensues played pitch perfect by Watson, one also painfully feels that women’s worth is still measured by their romantic histories regardless of their personal traits. While the audience can only hope that Charity picks herself up and learns a thing or two about herself, the injustice of her character being reduced to this one facet in the eyes of her beloved stings. EMT’s embrace of this darkness lends the production a depth under the showbiz glamour.

Sweet Charity @ The Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh, run ended