With music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, Sweet Charity is filled with fabulous, iconic songs such as ‘Rhythm of Life’, ‘Big Spender’, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ and ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’; no doubt already familiar to many audience members, regardless of whether or not they have seen the actual stage production. The book by Neil Simon is considerably light (when you consider the demise of its unlucky-in-love leading lady, Charity Hope Valentine) and when paired with Coleman’s toe-tapping score it makes for an entertaining musical.
The professional influence within OCPAC is evident in their latest production, Sweet Charity. Beyond the creative team and several OCPAC committee and founding members who have succeeded in the professional world of musical theatre, the cast of Sweet Charity is brimming with graduates and current students of various music and theatre courses. This level of experience and training is evident throughout the show.
Director Evan Lever has skilfully and thoughtfully delivered an entertaining show that focuses on the optimistic and hopeful nature of the very sweet Charity Hope Valentine. Despite her inability to find true love, Charity is not portrayed merely as a poor victim, but rather, as a confident, albeit quirky, young woman determined to do better in life. As Lever writes in his directorial notes in the program, “Charity is not a traditional damsel in distress”.
Costumes (designed by Marc McIntyre) keep the focus of the Fandango Ballroom employees on their hire for dancing, with just one costume implying that just some of the girls sell more than just their time. It keeps the mood of the show lighter and perhaps a little more family-friendly, but also explains why nice, innocent girls – with honourable intentions – end up working in such a facility.
The set design (Dave Angelico) is minimal, but effective, and the movement of props on and off stage is well choreographed to ensure for smooth scene transitions.
Josie Marchant is a delightful as leading lady Charity Hope Valentine. A recent VCA graduate, Marchant has a superb singing voice and plays the role with a warmth and innocence that immediately endears her to the audience.
Oilver Cowen is well cast as the somewhat awkward love interest, Oscar Lindquist, and delivers a confident and believable performance.
The strong supporting cast include Kristen Mihalos as Nickie, Ruby Cesan as Helene, Alex Cooper as Herman, Cameron Taylor as Vittorio Vidal, Claire Warrilow as Ursula, Thomas O’Reilly as Big Daddy Brubeels, Caitlin Plummer as Rosie and Sarah Cuthbert as the Good Fairy.
Choreography, by Michelle Smitheram, is a highlight of the show and immediately sets the era of the story. The dancing is sharply executed by the entire cast, with the stronger dancers being given plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent. The precision of each movement was particularly noted in the dance number ‘Rich Man’s Frug’, with exceptionally crisp movements from every single cast member (to the point that I tried hard to find someone in the back of the ensemble with a flailing, limp hand but to no avail!). It is apparent that Smitheram has paid significant attention to detail.
Under the musical direction of Sam Ward, and backed by an eleven piece band, a large cast delivers a rich, harmonious sound, that elevates the ensemble numbers. During ‘The Rhythm of Life’ the energy level coming from the stage was palpable.
Despite the large cast, the stage never felt overcrowded in the large ensemble numbers and the performers seemed to move effortlessly on and off stage.
While the performances and dance numbers felt very well rehearsed for opening night, there were a few minor problems with missed sound and lighting cues, as well as a couple of on-stage mishaps. These will no doubt be rectified for subsequent performances.
Sweet Charity is yet another strong offering from OCPAC.
More information and tickets: http://www.ocpac.com.au/our-company-1/
Photo credit: Ben Fon