Friday, February 13, 2015


Verity Hunt-Ballard as Charity Hope Valentine

Canberra Theatre Playhouse until 22nd February.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Dean Bryant’s  brilliant combination of smoke and mirrors,  and  smoking hot talent,  make  an intoxicating  blend in this  sizzling new, much awarded,  production of Cy Coleman’s popular musical which had its Canberra premiere in the Canberra Theatre Playhouse last night.
Thanks to clever design by Owen Phillips (set) and Tim Chappel (costumes) the hard working ensemble rarely leave the stage as they effortlessly change characters and costumes to transport the audience through seedy dance halls, swanky hotels, claustrophobic lifts, even ferris wheels, to tell the story of a damaged, but never daunted, dance hall hostess, Charity Hope Valentine, who enthusiastically subscribes to the religion of love.

Bryant’s inspired concept transports the musical into the present day without losing any of the integrity of the original production. Iconic set pieces like “The Rhythm of Life” and “I’m a Brass Band” receive surprising make-overs, enhanced by Andrew Hallsworth’s imaginative, frenetic choreography which pays tribute to Bob Fosse’s original, especially in show-stopping “Rich Man’s Frug”.   

The role of Charity Hope Valentine was a career defining role for Nancye Hayes in the original Australian production. Nearly 50 years later, it will be the same for Verity Hunt- Ballard whose performance is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Hunt-Ballard is a true clown, able to effortlessly move from over-the-top physical comedy to heart-breaking pathos. She is also a terrific dancer and an out-standing singer. Her Charity is a unique creation and a performance to be relished.
She receives terrific support from a chameleon cast, especially Martin Crews, outstanding as Charity’s three lovers, the reticent Charlie, the suave Vittorio, and the hopelessly shy Oscar. Deborah Krizak is quite wonderful as the hard-boiled Nickie and the spoiled, demanding, Ursula, and even musical director, Andrew Worboys, has a scene stealing moment as the pianist who “likes to cry at weddings”.

If you see only one show this year, make sure it’s “Sweet Charity”.
Verity Hunt-Ballard, (Charity), Kate Cole (Helene), Debora Krizak (Nickie)
This review first published in the CITY NEWS digital edition of Feb.12 and will appear in the print edition on Feb.