THEATRE REVIEW: Sweet Charity starring Anne-Marie Duff & Arthur Darvill at the Donmar

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE? Donmar Warehouse RUNTIME: 2 hours and 28 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)

WHEN? 6/5, runs to 8/6/2019

‘Sensational’ is the 1-word review we hear Tony and Olivier Award winner Jonathan Pryce utter as he leaves the Donmar after this farewell production by outgoing Artistic Director Josie Rourke – and we agree wholeheartedly.

  • Read on for reasons including what we think Josie Rourke should do next

We last saw Pryce in the audience at the Almeida for Patsy Ferran’s turn in Chekhov’s Three Sisters and we suspect he, like us, enjoyed this rip-roaring 1966 musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields considerably more.

Rourke appears to have blown the budget on redecorating the Donmar inspired by the Silver Age of Andy Warhol’s Factory, the period from 1962 to 1967 when bohemians created, experimented and partied in a 5th floor apartment at 231 East 47th Street in New York.

Rourke took up her current position at the Donmar in 2011 and became the 1st female theatre director to be appointed as Artistic Director of a major London theatre. Her production of Coleman’s City Of Angels was 1 of her greatest triumphs and won 2 Oliviers.

Sweet Charity is the story of a dancer-for-hire, the titular Charity, at a Times Square dancehall in the 60s and how she meets the man who will propose to her.

Anne-Marie Duff is 1 of our favourite actresses but she’s not an obvious choice to play the lead here and it’s tremendously brave casting because she’s not a stagey singer. However, she does bring a believable vulnerability to the role as well as a cheerful resilience that’s more important than whether she’s always in tune.

Darvill is much more obvious casting as her beau and we love the scene in the broken down lift where the 2 meet and a twitchy Darvill is spooked by claustrophobia as Duff as Charity does her utmost to put him at his ease.

Special mention to the fine ensemble not least the on-point dancing of Debbie Kurup and outrageous scene-stealing by guest star Beverley Knight in a role which will also feature Le Gateau Chocolat. For those not familiar with the score, it doesn’t waste its well-known number Hey Big Spender. If You Could See Me Now and Knight’s take on Rhythm Of Life make for a memorable evening.

We wonder whether Rourke will continue to pursue her celluloid ambitions and, if so, she could do no worse  than building on what is here and remaking the 1969 classic film version of this with Duff as its vulnerable but charming star. Sensational indeed.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Donmar. Tickets
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