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REVIEW | Sweet Charity | Royal Exchange

Royal Exchange have outdone themselves in their triumphant production of Sweet Charity, that faultlessly tackles the dynamic choreography and heartbreaking narrative with a striking performance from leading lady Kaisa Hammarlund.

The 60s musical disguises the story of vulnerable young Charity, who is constantly getting her heartbroken, with powerful musical numbers and strong personalities. Charity is a dance hostess, and longs to get out of what the dancers describe as “defending themselves to music.”

Infatuated by the idea of falling in love, Kaisa Hammarlund approaches the role of Charity with the perfect balance of intense vulnerability and heightened optimism. Hammarlund’s stage presence is utterly commanding as she portrays her gritty emotions so naturally. Her eyes widen when she finds herself in movie star Vittorio Vidal’s apartment (Bob Vidal), but as expected, her expectations of a fairytale ending are diminished.

Despite her struggle to find a connection with a man, her chemistry with fellow dancers Helene (Cat Simmons) and Nikkie (Holly Dale Spencer) is uplifting. Whilst they taunt and tease one another in the dressing room, there is a touching moment of hope, when they all begin to express their extravagant dreams for the future in their number There’s Got To Be Something Better Than This. 

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Charity’s strength is admirable, whilst everything is thrown at her, she manages to pick herself up and keep going. Hammarlund smiles through her despair, and whilst we laugh at her attempts, her heartache is potently visible.

Whilst the witty dialogue and engaging storyline remains, the staging allows the production to be seen in a new light. Director Derek Bond manages to capture the emotion of the piece through his intimate staging. Set in the round, Bond excellently creates the vibrancy of New York and each slick scene change maintains the pace of the production, which reflects Kaisa Hammarlund’s vivacious energy as Charity.

For a highly dance-heavy show, choreographer Aletta Collins manages to master the power of the sharp, jazzy movement without it becoming overbearing in the space. The cast bring a tremendous amount of characterisation and energy to the production, which is evident through the passionate performance of Rhythm Of Life, which is led superbly by Josie Benson.

Bursting with fun, laughs and good times, Sweet Charity is a quirky and fulfilling performance that will bring a different type of festive cheer to your Christmas in Manchester this year – it is not one to be missed.

On at the Royal Exchange Theatre until the 28th of January, and tickets can be found here.

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