Sweet Charity - Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre

‘Sweet Charity’ // Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre

‘Sweet Charity’ was a good time.

Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre presented ‘Sweet Charity’ featuring the students of their 2021 musical theatre course. The show was staged at Hayward Street Studios’ purpose-built theatre. 

‘Sweet Charity’ is set in the 1960s and tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a sweet girl who, despite her optimism, is unlucky in love. That is until she gets stuck in a lift with Oscar, a nice young man with severe claustrophobia. With music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, the show contains such showstoppers as ‘Big Spender’, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ and ‘Rhythm of Life’.

The stage was simple, with flats representing a New York skyline and a large raised platform. Various props such as lockers, coat racks and chairs were used to transition the stage from Ballroom to apartment to park. At times, it would have been nice to have more variety and colour in the set and props to capture the audience’s attention. Lighting design by Maegan Micola Von Furstenrecht was basic and consisted of full stage lights, blackouts and the occasional spotlight. Costume design by Ella Bordeaux was fun and bright. The decision to dress Charity in red throughout the show ensured she stood out as the centre of attention. A particular highlight was the costumes for ‘Rhythm of Life’, which reflected the mood and message of the song perfectly.

Director Jess Purdy used the stage well and for the most part, the blocking seemed natural. She employed the raised stage to its full purpose and utilised levels to ensure a dynamic performance. At times, the action was focused very far stage left or stage right, which left centre stage bare. Several elements of set and props were mimed by the actors, which is understandable given the fast-paced scene changes, but left the show feeling amateurish. Frequent blackouts were used to change prop pieces. Perhaps some of these changes could have occurred onstage under the next scene to assist with the flow of the show. Charity’s blocking, physical humour and use of the stage was natural, however, some of the other characters seemed overdone and almost caricaturish. 

Musical direction by Dennet Hudson was good and group numbers were balanced with blended harmonies. Choreography by Callum Mansfield was clear and polished, with ‘Rhythm of Life’ a particular choreographic highlight. The speedy movements were well-rehearsed and captivating. The iconic ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ was also choreographed well. However, ‘Big Spender’ was a let-down, with beats in the music usually accented with sharp choreography ignored.

Kelsey Todd excelled as Charity Hope Valentine. Her portrayal of Charity’s sweet naivety, natural humour and ability to not take herself too seriously ingratiated Todd with the audience almost immediately. She had a large role to fulfil and successfully carried the show while keeping up her American accent. Though there were a few vocal wobbles, Todd’s rendition of ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’ was captivating.

Cristian Robba-Colley was a standout in the role of Vittorio Vidal. His Italian suavity and subtle but pretentious nature was a joy to watch. His accent and acting ability was spot on and his song ‘Too Many Tomorrows’ displayed his vocal talents, despite having to sing in an Italian accent. 

Sam Caruana played the sensitive and neurotic Oscar Lindquist charmingly. His American accent was flawless and his rapport and chemistry with Charity was engaging and believable. The scenes between Caruana and Todd were the acting highlights of the show.

Tayler Ramsay and Nathaniel Savy as Helene and Herman were talented performers whose singing ability shone through. It is a shame the audience was not treated to more of their talents.

Eleanor Grieve stole the show in the role of Daddy Brubeck. ‘Rhythm of Life’ was the show-stopping number, not least due to Grieve, whose confidence and command of the stage was inspiring. Not once was she lost in the ensemble and her magnetism came across as the leader of the church. Grieve took complete control of the number vocally and her command of the choreography was flawless.  

‘Sweet Charity’ was an opportunity for the students at Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre to display their talents. With Todd at the helm, the story was conveyed convincingly and provided an enjoyable evening of entertainment.

‘Sweet Charity’ performs until  Sunday, 14 November 2021, at Hayward Street Studios. For more information visit Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre’s website.

Images by Let Me Wander Photography

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