Sweet Charity is well loved within the amdram community, particularly due to the well-known musical numbers, the broad range of minor roles and the large number of female parts available. This makes it an ideal choice when your company is predominantly women, as so many societies are these days. Of course, it also benefits from good singers and dancers, and the age mix needs to be right, but it is possible to get away without these qualities and still put on a good show.
The musical itself premiered on Broadway in 1966, but most people will have seen the iconic performance of Shirley MacLaine in the 1969 film which was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.
Waterside Musical Society have unfortunately had to abandon their previous home at the Waterside Theatre and have moved the production to the Noadswood School. Sadly, the venue has some significant limitations which hamper the overall qualities of the show. For example, many of the entrances are made from a side entrance in the auditorium, which then involves a short walk to the stage – the difficulty with this is that actors were appearing early and standing at the side of the stage ready for the next scene, which became distracting. Some of the set is taken out through the same side entrance, and then the noise from offstage was very noticeable on more than one occasion.
The lighting facilities are also very different in a school compared with a theatre, with a far more basic rig available to light the show. That said, the lighting for Charity is on the whole good; it is a pity that in certain scenes it isn’t possible to really focus the lighting on one particular part of the stage, leaving other parts dark.
Charity Hope Valentine is played by Viki Sarker. The thing with the role of Charity is that she is hardly ever off stage, so you need an excellent actress. Thankfully, Viki is good – she has a lovely singing voice, her diction is superb, but the best thing about her performance is her facial expressions, which beautifully capture the essence of the ever-changing moods of the character.
Her fiancé, Oscar Lindquist, is played with excellent characterisation by Christopher Wortley, whose performance of the hyperventilating, shy tax accountant, stuck in the lift with Charity, is highly notable.
On the whole, the costumes are very colourful (as are some of the girls’ wigs), but they don’t always seem to fit either the actor or the period as well as they could. That said, the costumes for the ‘Rhythm of life’ number in act 2 ideally suit the piece.
The seven-piece band, under the direction of the clarinet-playing Ian Peters is excellent – well balanced to the venue, with just the right amount of brassiness befitting the music. They are a delight to listen to.
Sadly, it is difficult to be as complimentary about the set, which seems clumsy and confusing. The opulent bed in Vittorio Vidal’s apartment is clearly two blocks placed together with a curtain rail stuck on the end. If the company’s requirement is to have a minimal set, then it is important that the designer ensures it is dressed well. Sadly, the set really lets this production down as the cast have clearly put a lot of hard work in and they sound very good with the band.
All in all, the show is worth seeing – there are some very comical moments, as well the big company numbers. The show runs until 28 October, with a matinee at 2.30 on Saturday.