Cy Coleman’s sassy Sweet Charity has been enjoying a major revival at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester where it ended a two-month, extended run tonight to a fantastic reception from an audience which included several repeat visitors. Sweet Charity contains many of Cy Coleman and lyricist Dorothy Fields’ most memorable numbers, and features a tremendously witty book by Neil Simon. It’s a challenge to pull off successfully – Bonnie Langford did just that in a production full of pizzazz at the Victoria Palace in 1998, while Tamsin Outhwaite fared less well at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2010.

However, staging it in the round has enabled director Derek Bond to take a completely fresh look at the staging of well-known material. This Sweet Charity has more of a through dramatic line than previous versions – the in-the-round space at the Royal Exchange has influenced the interpretation of the story and gives the show new life. Most of the company play multiple roles and are ‘commentators’ on the story at times – they tell Charity’s story. And there is a sense of fluidity in this production – of characters, costumes, props and locations – as the story keeps changing and moving on.

The brassy overture of this classic Broadway show sounds fabulous played right in the auditorium, with MD Mark Aspinall’s 9-piece band seated in a booth on one side of the seven-sided space of the Royal Exchange. The staging of one of the show’s most iconic tunes, Shirley Bassey’s iconic ‘Big Spender’, is given new treatment. Instead of the girls of the Fandango Ballroom hustling for customers (in a venue where added ‘extras’ are optional), Bond starts the number with the girls getting ready in their dressing rooms, before we see them on stage, so the audience gets to see them as individuals too.

The two-dimensional focus of the traditional Bob Fosse choreography is discarded by choreographer Aletta Collins, as it’s not suitable for in-the-round. ‘The Rhythm of Life’ – usually sung by a man and sung by Sammy Davies Jr in the Shirley Maclaine film of this show – is performed by a woman here. Josie Benson’s Daddy Brubeck, epitomises an empowered woman who can enchant the ‘followers’ at her ‘church’ – this works well in the piece as it gives Charity a great role model to look up to in this scene.

Charity’s romance with Oscar is at the centre of most of the second half of the show, and Daniel Crossley keeps an edge to his Oscar throughout – there’s something about him that the audience recognise will eventually let Charity down (Crossley even gets booed at curtain call!).

Kaisa Hammarlund is loveable, determined and vulnerable as Charity, a hopeful girl who is looking for love and so much more in the whirl and swirl of the vibrant and exciting time that was 1960s New York. Hammarlund drives the show and makes the audience fall in love with the character and her escapades. The ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ scene where she hides out in movie star Vittorio Vidal (Bob Harms)’s apartment is pure comic genius. Charity hides under the bed when Vidal’s girlfriend arrives, then moves right around the stage hiding under or behind a variety of objects. But the closing scene, when Charity loses Oscar, having hidden the real nature of her employment from him, is devastating, as the audience realise that this final blow for Charity is one too many.

The beauty of seeing a show in-the-round is that different parts of the audience see different things from different places in the auditorium. This Sweet Charity is a perfect fit for the space – now I wish I could join those repeat visitors wise enough to see it again before tonight’s unforgettable finale.