Review – Sweet Charity, Menier Chocolate Factory, London

Sweet Charity We always automatically book for all new productions at the Menier, because you can be guaranteed a great night out. Or in our case, afternoon, as we like to go on Sundays, maybe have a mooch around the Tate Modern earlier on, then come back home and have a meal at our favourite Indian. Lovely.

And with Sweet Charity, once again the Menier can chalk up a most palpable hit. How do they do it?! I wasn’t familiar with the show, not seen the film, but of course knew the famous songs and it’s always fascinating to put show tunes that you’ve known since childhood into their original context.

I always associate Big Spender, for example, with Shirley Bassey. A bold, brassy, come-on number, full of sassy sexiness and allure. I had no idea it was sung by a bunch of desperate, sad, bored, “hostesses” looking for some income. And it has terrific impact on stage, especially if like me you were in the middle of Row AA with nothing but legs and cleavages to attract your attention.

Rhythm of Life is another standard from this show, and this one I associate with Sammy Davis Jnr from some American 60s Saturday night TV thing. I didn’t know it was the “hymn” from a hippy “Church”, more like something from Hair than a teatime variety treat. The cast do a fantastic and humorous job of suggesting drug-induced fun and make you wish you were a tearaway teenager circa 1967.

It’s full of comic highs, like Charity being stuck in a (fortunately) see-through wardrobe, generously observing what she hoped would be her new boyfriend having it away with his old girlfriend. Sounds a bit seedy put like that but it isn’t really. She’s just a realist.

Tamzin Outhwaite Tamzin Outhwaite is excellent as Charity, full of energy, a smile that no disaster can extinguish, top quality singing and dancing and heaps of fun. Josefina Gabrielle The rest of the cast is great too; I was particularly impressed with Josefina Gabrielle who is voluptuous beyond compare and perfectly cast. The band are (and I only use this word sparingly) fab.

The only downside was having to share the front row bench with two fat people. Not in our company, obviously, but two or three people to Mrs Chrisparkle’s right. If you’ve not been, the Menier do have allocated seating (which is great) but they are numbered spaces on a bench, so if a fat person sits down first, you are left struggling to find places for both buttocks. Fortunately, even though Mrs Chrisparkle has retained her wonderful svelte shape, it meant that I had to sit with one shoulder about eight inches off the back rest so that the man to my left had some space, and when I asked Mrs C if there was any chance of her budging up a bit she told me any closer and then man to her right would have his nose in her tits. That Swiss Finishing School was such a bonus.

We didn’t complain about the seating. It was a full house and you couldn’t really give the fat people 7 minutes to go on a crash diet. You only have one life to live, so make the best of the 150 minutes you have been given to enjoy Sweet Charity as it’s a sellout, so you won’t be going again. Although I have heard a rumour that it might be transferring to Wyndham’s in April, so if you haven’t already booked for the Menier season, you might still be in luck.

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