On The Rocks: Sweet Charity – review

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Sweet Charity
Just So Society
Venue 1, 14 April 7:30pm
***

Cards on the table: this year’s On The Rocks Festival has been fantastic. Though I have not been able to catch every show I would have liked, I have found what I have seen to be of a truly excellent standard. It is with a degree of sadness, then, that I say that Just So’s grand closing musical failed to ignite on a level befitting of this year’s festival. Sweet Charity is far from bad – in fact, it’s good. It simply lacked spark.

One of the all-time classics, Sweet Charity follows the eternally optimistic and unlucky-in-love Charity (Vicki Robertson), a ‘dancehall hostess’ at the Fandango Ballroom, as she seeks to rise above her lot in life. Along the way she meets a host of colourful characters, most notably the neurotic Oscar (Frazer Hadfield), in whom Charity believes she may have finally found true love.

Robertson presents a highly likeable Charity, imbued with a kind-of infectious innocence, and blasts out her solos like a real pro. Frequent shifting and unconscious sighs, however, proved distracting in the more intimate moments of her performance. Hadfield, too, deserves to be praised for his portrayal of Oscar, which felt reminiscent of a young Woody Allen. The award for scene stealing, though, must go to Brendan MacDonald for his hilarious turn as Italian movie star Vittorio Vidal, who strutted about commanding the stage like a proud peacock.

The use of a thrust added an interesting touch, allowing transitions to flow smoothly as action was moved between both sides of the curtain. Less smooth were the introductory bars of the musical numbers: there was an awful lot of standing around like lemons while the band struck up, jarring against the fluid scene transitions. This problem could have been remedied so easily, but as it was it created a stop and start feel that affected the pace.

My main issue with the show is that it simply lacked fire. Show-stopping numbers such as Big Spender and Rhythm Of Life felt lacklustre: what should have been smouldering and burning with energy turned out a bit damp. I adored the choreography – even if some weaker dancers could not keep up with the complicated technique – but once the ensemble were ‘free’ of the choreography, the crowd scenes began to look aimless and, again, bereft of energy.

I kept willing Sweet Charity to explode off the stage and, on occasion, it did just that, particularly in the brilliant If My Friends Could See Me Now. On occasion it is not sufficient for a great show, however, just as a few sparks are not sufficient to light a fire.

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