Another blog in the series from our roving arts & culture reporter David Smith
Well I am… or at least I was… Over a family meal when the subject of musicals came up I dismissed them all with: “I don’t like musicals!” And then, of course, I had to start trying to justify my arrogant posture. “Come on Dad, explain yourself; that’s a bit of a scattergun approach…”
“Well, most of the audience are ‘of a certain age’.”
“Well yes; you don’t see the theatre full of young people. The narrative is always weak, characterisation thin and often you are lucky to find one memorable song.”
Have you ever felt like you are walking on ice and you can feel the ice cracking underneath you with each step you take? That is exactly how I felt and waited for the broadsides to come.
“Wait a minute; you took us to see Joseph, Blood Brothers, West Side Story, Cats… I suppose Billy Elliot doesn’t appeal to young people either!”, and the list went on. “They may not have the characterisation of King Lear but those theatres were full of young people.”
“Basics in Burnley produces a musical each year with a cast wholly of young people, and you encouraged me to audition for Burnley Youth Theatre‘s West Side Story“, came another voice across the table.
“Then you won’t want to have one of the tickets I’ve bought for Sweet Charity at the Royal Exchange”, chipped in my wife Kay enjoying my discomfort.
“I give in…”
And so at the weekend we went to see Sweet Charity. What a show!
Charity Hope Valentine is a ‘hostess’ dancer in a New York gents’ club. She falls in love with clients – always the wrong one – believing everything they say, longing for the marriage proposal which her friend know will never come.
Kaisa Hammalund is terrific as Charity. She fills the stage with a an energy and vibrancy which left me exhausted. She engages so perfectly with her audience that we are all wanting her love quest to succeed… the underlying irony in the show is that there is no charity on offer. It highlights attitudes to women, makes fun of the excesses of 60’s hippies… and more.
The whole cast is excellent I can hardly say that there are no memorable songs when I am still singing them in the car: Rhythm of Life, Hey Big Spender, If My Friends could See Me Now, There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.
The direction from Derek Bond is brilliant. There is a disco sequence which took me back to my 60’s disco days with all the moves I attempted exaggerated and presented like a Matthew Bourne piece of choreography. The scene where Charity finds herself in the bedroom of a film star when his partner returns, hiding under the bed and under a covered tea-trolley is hilarious. The stage craft making use of a minimalist set allows each individual member of the audience to be engaged throughout yet showing smooth transitions between scenes with clever lighting.
…and the music from a band visible on stage throughout is magical. It is a show that had me laughing out loud, miming the songs and tapping the lady’s foot next to mine.
Go and see it, if you can (on at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until 28 January).
I love musicals; I can’t understand anyone who says they don’t… I’m off the see Strictly Ballroom at the West Yorkshire Playhouse next week… watch this space.!