Saturday, March 8, 2014

SWEET CHARITY



Book by Neil Simon
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Directed by Dean Bryant
Hayes Theatre, Potts Point, Sydney

February 7 - March 9, 2014

Review by Len Power 6 March 2014
 
You might think that a Broadway musical from 1966 would need serious updating to appeal to today’s audience. The sold out season of ‘Sweet Charity’ by the new Hayes Theatre Co. in Sydney proves that in the hands of the right director like Dean Bryant this almost 50 year old musical can still work.

Dean Bryant respects the source material in this production.  There are no obvious cuts and the story plays out in its original time period.  However, the production does move along at a modern pace with fast, simple but inventive scene transitions.  The traditional Broadway orchestra is replaced by a modern small band which gives freshness to the musical arrangements. The characters are played with great commitment and depth.  It feels like you're watching a dramatic play rather than a musical.

Based originally on Fellini's film 'Nights Of Cabiria', the musical is set in New York and tells the story of a not too bright dance hall hostess, Charity Hope Valentine, and her romantic hopes and dreams regardless of the sordid background of her day to day existence.  The brilliantly funny book by Neil Simon takes the edge off the serious subject matter.  The memorable music score by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields contains major hits like 'Big Spender', 'If They Could See Me Now' and 'There's Got To Be Something Better Than This'.

In the star role of Charity, Verity Hunt-Ballard gives an outstanding performance dramatically and vocally. She delivers a real character that the audience takes to their hearts but at the same time shows the hard edge that the girl has developed from the hard knocks she’s experienced.  In the triple roles of Charlie/Oscar/Vittorio, Martin Crewes proves he can play anything. He was totally convincing as the greasy lover, Charlie, the super-handsome Italian movie idol, Vittorio, and the nerdish Oscar. His singing of 'Too Many Tomorrows' displayed particularly the range of his fine voice.  Debora Krizak also scored in her dual roles as the tough but caring Nickie, a fellow dance hall hostess, and as Ursula, the spoiled blonde girlfriend of the Italian movie star.  All twelve cast members gave strong performances.

The simple set design by Owen Phillips was imaginative as well as practical and was complemented by the excellent lighting design of Ross Graham.  Costumes by Tim Chappel were witty and clever as well as just right for the period and tone of the show.  Choreographer, Andrew Hallsworth, provided great dances with just a nod towards the original Bob Fosse style usually associated with this show.

This production was a revelation from start to finish.  The standing ovation from the audience at the end was well-deserved.

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