Sweet Charity first appeared on Broadway in 1966 with original choreography by Bob Fosse and starred Gwen Verdon as Charity Hope Valentine and John McMartin as Oscar Lindquist (a role he played opposite Shirley MacLaine in the 1969 film). Sweet Charity won a Tony Award for Best Choreography in 1966.
The Understudy Productions presentation is co- directed by Kris Stewart (Wicked, Kiss Me, Kate) and Maureen Bowra (Grease: The Arena Experience), Sweet Charity tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a Fandango Ballroom dance hall hostess who believes she is more then just a hostess and sets out to navigate her way through life.
Playing the role of Charity is Naomi Price (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Voice). Price brings to the role a certain tenacity and air as she confidently acquaints the audience with Charity’s story of heartbreak at the hands of the men including her latest Charlie who at the beginning of the show pushes her into the lake (in this production it is onto the stage with splashing sound effects).
The only concern for me however is that while she shows the confident, determined side of Charity I feel as though her portrayal could do with a little more naivety.
Charity’s love interest Oscar Lindquist is portrayed fantastically by Stephen Hirst (Joh for PM, Boys of Sondheim). We are introduced to Lindquist at the YMHA as he and Charity share a elevator to room 603 for their class. Stephen’s acting really shines when Oscar and Charity are stuck in the elevator. You can feel the stress as claustrophobic Oscar begins to slowly and comedically remove his jacket, vest and tie before Charity tries to redirect his thoughts as the two sing “I’m the Bravest Individual”
The highlights of my evening however were Andy Cook (Beautiful:The Carole King Musical, Strictly Ballroom) and Lizzie Moore (The Last Five Years, Coal Miner’s Daughter). Cook gave a stellar performance as famous Italian movie star Vittorio Vidal. His interpretation of the big name, slightly too sure of himself Vidal brings a sharp, comedic performance to the table and during opening night, the audience were treated to Cook’s ad-lib, fast on your feet thinking when a scene didn’t go completely according to plan.
Moore who is cast in the dual roles of Charity’s best friend Nickie and socialite Ursula hits the nail on the head with both roles. As Nickie, her quick wit and sassiness shines through. She delivers multiple one liners in quick succession especially in “Baby, Dream Your Dream” where Moore and Hayley Winch who plays Helene really feed off of each other. Moore shows why she is a rising star.
The Bob Fosse choreography is not only emphasised by Dan Venz (Carrie, Boy & Girl) but executed sharply during the big numbers such as “Big Spender”, “The Rhythm of Life” and “The Rich Man’s Frug”. I would love to see these numbers performed on a larger stage but at the same time the smallness of The Brisbane Powerhouse’s Visy Theatre stage gave a beautiful intimacy that allowed the audience to believe they were part of the story.
The set design of Joseph Noonan is wonderful and no detail is left undone from the black and pink sparkling backdrop of the Fandango Ballroom to Vidal’s apartment where the character’s surety of himself is accentuated by the photos of himself and his trophies being on the drinks cart.
On the whole, Sweet Charity is a beautiful piece from the performance on stage to the intricacies of the subtle light changes that set the mood for each scene.
Sweet Charity is on at The Brisbane Powerhouse until Sunday, February 10th with tickets available from https://brisbanepowerhouse.