Christina Riley is
Sweet Charity opened in the Byre Theatre this last Tuesday, bringing to the stage the Just So Society’s first musical of the semester. The Byre location comes with an expectation of grandeur, this somewhat being promised in Hannah Lawson’s director’s note, which said that Sweet Charity, and the Just So Society’s rendition of it, was ‘fun’ and ‘sparkly’.
The show started with some difficulties, a curtain cue that was mistimed with the introductory music unfortunately setting the precedent for the remainder of the performance. Starting off with a rather long musical score and a blackened stage left a want for more. A colourful lighting sequence could have filled this void, or perhaps an impromptu dance number, a creative spark to set an initial upbeat tone. Following on from this, Charity’s (Ella-Rose Nevill) opening number was at times barely audible in contrast to what seemed like obnoxiously loud music, due to a lack of vocal projection from the performers and what can only be assumed to be temperamental microphones. It seemed only fitting that Charity’s character was drowning whilst the lines of the chorus were simultaneously drowned out and lost amidst the brass instruments. Volume issues would go on to plague the performance, a regrettable misfortune for the actors who had clearly put a lot of effort into the show, and a frustration for the audience who wished them well.
The stage itself looked simple but elegant. But the Fosse style choreography would have benefitted from extension. At times, the precision and flare of the dancing style was lost in the musical numbers due to a myriad of people on a small stage, and this was often confusing for audience and cast alike. For reasons that could have been outside of directorial control, the band was placed onstage behind a screen; over-anticipating the popularity of the show may have led to this decision, however placing them in front of the stage could have improved spacing issues and allowed the Byre to appear fuller in their opening night.
Overall, the acting itself was for the most part seamless in that it was well-rehearsed. Chuckles from the audience were received here and there where the script demanded it, however the performances felt flat for large chunks of the show. The facial expressions and intonations of Nevill in her comedic one-liners demonstrated why she was suited to Charity, but her performance lacked consistency; for instance, her wavering New York accent. Liliana Potter (Helene), Rachel Munro (Nickie) and Coggin Galbreath’s (Vidal) performances would far surpass that of the leading role. It was the sassy and sarcastic vocals of Potter and Munro, as well Galbreath’s caricatured Italian, who gave an exceptionally moving rendition of ‘Too Many Tomorrows’, that stole the show. The trio were completely convincing in their assumption of the characters, and while Munro’s voice was obviously worthy of a starring role, Nickie suited her perfectly, the boldness of the taxi dancer commanding the stage whenever she took to it. Alongside Linus Erbach (Oscar), they gave comical performances that drove the show until its end.
While there were glimpses of greatness throughout Sweet Charity, it was underpinned by a perpetual lack. The performance of ‘Big Spender’ summed up the show’s entirety in that it showed moments of greatness, however fell just shy due to dips in momentum. While the musical did deliver on the sparkle through its enthralling costumes and a selection of well casted supporting characters, the moments in between were perhaps a little stunted.
Rating: Two Stars
Editor: Sarah Crawford