Nights of Charity

Apr 15 2019 | By More

Fosse goes forth

Edinburgh Music Theatre is in a big spending mood this week, as it takes to the Church Hill Theatre stage with Sweet Charity, the musical made famous by choreographer and director Bob Fosse, from Tue 16 – Sat 20 April 2019.

The original production of Sweet Charity opened on Broadway in 1966, with the Tony Award-winning musical theatre star Gwen Verdon in the title role of Charity Hope Valentine.

Emma Watson and dancers in rehearsal. Pic EMT

The musical saw veteran lyricist Dorothy Fields teaming up with younger composer Cy Coleman. Neil Simon’s book used the screenplay for Fellini’s 1957 black and white movie, Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) as inspiration.

Simon changed the lead character’s profession and name. The prostitute Cabiria became dance hall hostess Charity and her area of trade moved from the outskirts of Rome to the Fan-Dango Ballroom, a Times Square dance-hall.

The resulting musical follows the trials and tribulations of Charity as she searches for love in the strangest places in Sixties New York. She is as unlucky in love as she is in life, but ever hopeful of realising her dreams of romance, a comfortable life and escape from the seedy Fan-Dango.

The number Big Spender might have been immortalised in Shirley Bassey’s big-voiced version, but it has never really been bettered for its simplicity and troubled tension than in Fosse’s 1969 film of the musical staring Shirley MacLaine.

distinctive style

But in many ways it was Fosse’s choreography which made it. And where his distinctive style with his creative use of unusual poses, gestures and arm movements added a frisson of unease to Big Spender, it was even more apparent in the Rich Man’s Frug, and then in the bizarre scene in the Rhythm of Life church, a thinly disguised front for a hippy cult.

Sheona Dorrian, Jack Bruce, Susanne Horsburgh, Emma Watson and Keith Thomas John Macleod in dance rehearsal. Pic: EMT

Fosse won the Tony Award for Best Choreography for the original Broadway production. It makes sense then, that EMT’s choreographer, Morgan Scott, has taken on Fosse’s style – and used it to create multi-layered set-pieces for the show’s stand out numbers.

“The choreography is incredible,” says Emma Watson, who is tackling the hugely demanding role of Charity. She points out that: “It is not your typical boy-meets girl happy ending musical. It is fun, it is lovely, it is entertaining, it is everything that a musical should be – but it is a lot more than that!”

“Charity is a breath of fresh air,” adds Watson. “She is a girl who just wants to be loved and she is so determined to achieve that, that she is prepared to put herself at the mercy of men who basically take advantage of her, in her pursuit of a better life and what she thinks is perfect love.

“She learns a lot about herself through her relationship with other characters throughout the show but mainly through her relationship with herself, which I think is quite frustrating at times, but is also quite refreshing.

“Charity is a bit nuts to be honest, she is a bit bonkers, but she is completely loveable. A strength which I think can be overlooked.”

Sweet Charity comes as Edinburgh Music Theatre has had a couple of particularly strong years with productions of Guys and Dolls (2018) and Fiddler on the Roof (2017) at the King’s. They have not been at the Church Hill since The Producers (2016) and it will interesting to see how their old stomping ground works for the company.

Jill Grimmond, chair of the EMT board, said “We can’t wait to bring Sweet Charity to the Church Hill Theatre this Easter. The cast have really enjoyed working on this musical masterpiece. The witty script and show-stopping numbers clearly demonstrating why Sweet Charity rightly deserves its place in the musical hall of fame.”

Listing and Links

Sweet Charity
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 April 2019
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat 20: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book Here.

EMT website:
EMT on facebook: @edinburghmusictheatre
Twitter: @edmusictheatre.

The original Broadway Cast recording and film adaptation are available through Amazon. Click the images for details:


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