Review: Sweet Charity, Pendle Hippodrome Theatre

Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company's cast for "Sweet Charity".
Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company's cast for "Sweet Charity".
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Women rule OK at Pendle Hippodrome Theatre.

Sweet Charity and her girlfriends are ruling the musical production of the same name this week - but it’s a very entertaining show for the men to watch.

Sweet Charity - real name Charity Hope Valentine - is such a likeable character you really want her to be happy.

Instead, the girl who just yearns to be loved is twice pushed into a 6ft deep lake, has her handbag stolen and is treated badly by a succession of boyfriends!

Not the typical boy meets girl, they fall in love, problems arise, but after a few hitches love conquers all and they trip off happily into the sunset together.

No, the story of “Sweet Charity” is a different kettle of fish. There is no traditional happy ending, yet the finale is surprisingly uplifting.

And Jessica Balderstone is just the girl to take on this feisty character role. She suffers all for her art, being twice bundled into a tank of freezing water, the first time just as the show opens with Charity being dumped by boyfriend Charlie, who almost drowns her and makes off with her handbag.

But ever the optimist, even when telling her tale of woe to her best friends, the Fandango girls at the nightclub where they all work as “hostesses”, she is ever hopeful that her next true love will be waiting just round the corner.

The role of Charity is a great one for any actress and Jessica takes to it eagerly. As the story progresses she is briefly romanced by movie star Vidal (played by Jack Herbert) until he decides to return to his fiancee. Then she becomes engaged to the shy, gawky and very claustrophobic Oscar (Josh Hindle) who she meets when they are trapped together in an elevator in a great scene.

But when Oscar dumps her when they are almost at the altar (and also decides to push her into the lake) a lesser girl might have thrown in the towel. But not the ever-optimistic Charity Hope Valentine for whom, without love, life has no purpose. Jessica does a great job of the role played by Shirley MacLaine in the movie version of this 60s show set in New York.

She is fun, bubbly and energetic as she takes life by the horns and makes the best of a not-too-happy existence.

Her two suitors complement her very well, with Jack Herbert’s being the smaller role, while Josh Hindle does an excellent and amusing portrayal of Oscar, who loves Charity, but isn’t man enough to commit to the girl with a seedy past but a great big heart.

This show, at Pendle Hippodrome until Saturday, when there is also a matinee, is very entertaining, which is also largely down to the fabulous choreography and the 60s costumes and wigs. The Fandango girls led by Laura Schofield as Nicki, are fabulous. Their dance routines in the nightclub being superb - especially the monochromed Austin Powers-type number. For anyone not familiar with this musical the songs such as “Hey Big Spender”, “The Rhythm of Life”, “If My Friends Could See Me Now”and “I Love To Cry At Weddings” all take on greater meaning and are hugely enjoyable when you see them in the setting they were written for.

Director Richard Sanderson kept very much to the original script with its tight witty dialogue and great humour, and “Sweet Charity” is well rehearsed and amusing. As I have said, this is in no small part down to the choreography orchestrated by Helen Cheung and complemented by musical director Lisa Manley and her powerful orchestra, and with a great leading lady. But the whole chorus and dance team were very good and all deserve a mention which space sadly prevents. Well done too to the costume ladies and wig lady Millie Greenwood, for this is a show where they need to be just right and they were. Last but not least the backstage team and set builders for setting up a real six foot deep pond inside the theatre and thankfully managing not to drown the leading lady.