Matthew White's staging of the beloved 1966 musical is hugely entertaining, but lacks some emotional nuance.
Based on Federico Fellini's 1957 film The Nights of Cabiria, about the exploits of an Italian street walker, the New York-set tuner makes it clear that all its heroine sells is her time, not her body. Dance hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine (Outhwaite) is good-natured, generous, and eternally optimistic -- despite being hopelessly unlucky in love and attracting the kind of men who only want to take her for a ride. She eventually finds a shot at happiness with shy, nervous Oscar (Mark Umbers), but it's clear from the beginning that he won't provide the simple route to contentment that she wants.
Outhwaite exudes the requisite combination of perky charm and a slight gawky awkwardness as Charity, and proves herself a nimble comic performer, especially in the scene where she ends up hiding in the bedroom closet of Italian movie star Vittorio Vidal (also played by Umbers). It's an able and amiable central performance, but Outhwaite just doesn't quite have the necessary vulnerability the character requires. When Charity is, once again, knocked about by life, Outhwaite is just too resilient, too strong, and too quick to pick herself up, and this has an impact on what should be a deeply poignant moment for both her and for the audience.
Umbers is superb in the dual roles of the neurotic Oscar and the wonderfully self-regarding Vittorio. Oscar is a particularly difficult part; he's appealing yet anxious and ultimately unforgivably weak, and Umbers pitches things perfectly and manages to hit just the right balance. The ensemble cast works tightly together, with Josefina Gabrielle standing out as Charity's life-hardened dance hall colleague Nicky, while Annalisa Rossi is also memorably amusing in a number of smaller roles.