Get a bit of Charity in your life

WHICH musical features the hit songs Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now and The Rhythm Of Life?

The answer is Sweet Charity and the upbeat story with several catchy hit songs is coming to the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking town centre next week.

Sweet Charity cast members rehearsing. Front row (from left) are Samantha Moylan-Heydt, Patrick Coad and Julia DaCosta. Back row, Dianne Skeer and Theresa Bolger

The 1966 musical was created by some of the most famous names on Broadway, the composer Cy Coleman, the playwright Neil Simon, the lyricist Dorothy Fields and the director and choreographer Bob Fosse.

It follows the romantic tribulations of Charity Hope Valentine, a taxi dancer, a dance partner-for-hire at a seedy dance hall in New York City. The film version in 1969 starred Shirley MacLaine.

The biggest hit from the show, Big Spender, became a signature song for Shirley Bassey, who took it to No 21 in the UK Singles Chart in 1967.

If My Friends Could See Me Now was a disco hit in 1978 for Linda Clifford and has been recorded by Dusty Springfield, the Three Degrees, Lena Zavaroni and Sammy Davis Jr, who also had great success with The Rhythm Of Life.

The production next month in Woking is by WAOS Musical Theatre and has been a long-held ambition for the director, Tasha Bennett.

“The film was one of my favourites and it’s rare to have a female-driven musical,” Tasha said.

Katie Winfield (left) as Charity and Heather Bokota as Nikki

“I got to see it on Broadway in the much more upbeat 2005 revival, starring Christina Applegate and it reminded me why I wanted to direct the show.

“Over a decade later, I finally got my chance to bring Sweet Charity to the stage when COVID hit. Some might have taken this as a sign but, like Charity, I remained hopeful. 

“Now, we are finally ready to show everyone our view of ’60s America. Be prepared to Bunny Hop, Mash Potato and Jerk, with our cast leading the way.”

Tasha said the cast have worked together through a pandemic-hit rehearsal period to produce a vibrant and upbeat show.

“They have mastered the Fosse choreography and are ready to show you a new side to Sweet Charity.

“With the sexual revolution in full swing, we poke fun at the double standards of the ’60s and challenge stereotypes. Expect a modern fairy tale that will have you belly laughing.

“The show is an exploration of the liberation and constraints of a poor hard-working woman searching for love, and her grace and optimism through heartbreaking rejections.

“It’s about being resilient and how to remain hopeful in a world that is designed to keep you defeated. Charity teaches us all how to keep getting up, even after you have been repeatedly knocked down.

“Right now, I think we could all use a little Charity Hope Valentine in our lives.”

* Sweet Charity will be performed at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, from Tuesday to Saturday, 3 to 7 May. Tickets can be bought at www.atgtickets.com. For more info search for WAOS Musical Theatre (Woking) on Facebook.

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