More Man from U.N.C.L.E. than Austin Powers, this pretty student production of classic Broadway musical Sweet Charity has a heart too big to break and really brings the laughs. The live band is tucked in the pit, leaving plenty of space for the dancers to hoof it up and cut a rug – memorable moments from the chorus include a flash of ballet, a twinkle of tap and some highly freaky frugging.
Trapped in the seedy world of ‘Taxi Girl’ club dancers, inveterate trouser-chaser Charity (an irrepressible, bubbly, ankle-twirling Greta Thompson) has just been dumped (in the lake) by her latest beau. Can she escape into something better? Bring up the lights and bring on the big numbers; because you may not be familiar with the music, but you’ll certainly know the songs. 'Big Spender', though the costumes are more Showgirls than Swinging Sixties, is delivered with proper languor and ennui, and just the right ooze of sinister complicity. Crackles of solidarity and female anger add spark to the memorably weird Bob Fosse ensemble dance set-pieces; and the cast, dressed up the nines in their finest charity shop gear (I’m sure I recognised a bag I donated three months ago) give it their best.
Charity’s wild stumble through the New York sixties counterculture takes in some eye-popping moments; Freddie Crowley’s turn as hippy preacher Daddy is psychedelically garish; Emi Staniaszek and Johnny Danciger are romantically hilarious as the rowing filmstar/celebrity couple. Laurence Belcher’s beautiful voice and comic flexibility inject real lovability into the difficult role of Oscar, while spectacular support comes from a brilliantly brittle Grace Albery (Nickie) angrily surveying a disappointing world over her knife-sharp cheekbones, and bubbly Ellie Mae MacDonald in woke yellow ruffles, raucous laughter and all the attitude in the world. These thrift shop cats dance up a storm!