Sweet Charity tells the story of a hopeless romantic and classic New York City dreamer, Charity Valentine, in her quest for love. This quest, it turns out, does not get off to the best start, as the opening scene involves her man of the hour throwing her in a lake in Central Park and stealing her purse. The rest of the play follows this unfortunate event and focuses on Charity’s relationship with the self-proclaimed ‘goofball’ Oscar Lindquist and her indecision over whether or not to reveal that she is a dancer in a sleazy nightclub.
The cast, particularly Vicki Robertson as an energetic and hopeful Charity, all had a great deal of work to do on this show. Set in 60s New York, the accent work across the board was particularly strong, and it was only at the interval that I realised some of the actors were not actually American. Mimi von Schack and Anna McDonald as Nickie and Helene, respectively, deserve particular mention for their great chemistry as the two jaded dancers that work with Charity at the Fandango Ballroom. They both reveal a softer side to each of their characters in ‘Baby Dream Your Dream’, a second act number where both characters sang longingly of their wildest dreams – a suburban life to counteract their lives in the harsh world of New York City. Frazer Hadfield was particularly delightful as Oscar, portraying both the neuroses and sweetness of the man that Charity fell in love with, and he gave a particularly moving turn before pushing her into the lake in Central Park. Mark Bradley Gregory and Brendan Macdonald offered hilarious turns in what could have been bit parts, but both took their parts and ran with them.
Overall, however, the show suffered from what can only be described as lack of polish. The sets, in particular, were shabby and poorly done, with spinning rounders consisting of painted flats which were not effective at all in evoking the settings of the play. Some of the chorus also occasionally faltered in steps, which drew attention from those chorus members who obviously knew what they were doing. A lot of the staging was itself unimaginative, a lot of ‘move to center stage and sing’ which wasn’t a good use of the venue. However, having one or two scenes where characters came in from the sides and were on the floor of Venue 1 was nice, as well as having ‘table seating’ for an extra few pounds. That was a very nice touch, as it allowed some of the actors to interact with the audience at that point, though more would have been nice.
This was a good show that could have been a lot better, which is disappointing for Just So. They did have to deal with a loss of the Byre at the start of the semester, but they could have used Venue 1 a lot more effectively.
Photo credits go to Lightbox Creative and On the Rocks