Friday, 27 February 2015

Sweet Charity Review, 26 Feb 2015 ****1/2

Book by Neil Simon, Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until 7 March, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 26 Feb 2015 
Stars: 4 & 1/2 
Full review also in Herald Sun online on 27 Feb 2015 and in print. KH

Photo Jeff Busby
Verity Hunt-Ballard is irrepressible, funny and vulnerable as Charity Valentine and Dean Bryant’s inventive production of Sweet Charity provides a star vehicle for her myriad talents.

As Charity, Hunt-Ballard is the polar opposite of her other award-winning role as the prim, perfect Mary Poppins, but we again witness her impeccable comic timing, vibrant dance, nuanced characterisation and full-bodied singing.

She totally inhabits Charity, bringing to life this optimistic, naive, unschooled “dance hostess” in a performance that is feisty, funny, fanciful, melodramatic and, finally, tragic.

Her rendition of If My Friends Could See Me Now is electrifying and her final scenes and snatches of her signature song, I’m The Bravest Individual, are heart-breaking.

Charity is a dreamer, a fantasist who hopes to be rescued by a man – any man who will marry her - from her dreary, tacky life as a hostess (read prostitute) at the Fandango Ballroom – a misnomer for this dank, trashy nightclub.
Verity Hunt-Ballard as Charity.Photo by Joe Calleri at Media Call, 26 Feb 2015

Almost everything about Bryant’s production is totally right, from his deft, witty, detailed direction to Andrew Hallsworth’s dynamic and eclectic choreography, Andrew Worboys’ tight band and contemporary arrangements and Tim Chappel’s shriekingly vivid costumes.

Bryant effectively balances hilarious scenes with dark, dramatic moments in this production.

The entire cast is delicious, but particular accolades go to the three other leads: Martin Crewes, Debora Krizak and Kate Cole.

Crewes is outstandingly versatile, both physically and vocally, in multiple roles that include the sultry Italian movie star, Vittorio, and Charity’s hapless suitor, the repressed, geeky accountant, Oscar.

Krizak artfully captures the bitter cynicism of good-hearted hostess, Nickie, and is unrecognisable as Ursula, the whining, mink-draped socialite, while Cole’s Helene is sassy, cool and jaded.

Hunt-Ballard, Cole and Krizak’s trio, There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This, is spirited and moving.

Big Spender makes a sizzling opening number, with its lascivious choreography and scantily clad chorus of women, while The Rhythm of Life is a wild orgy of Revivalist Church dance and song with Kuki Tipoki playing the provocative pastor, Big Daddy.

There are splendidly vivacious performances from the skillful chorus of dancer-singers.

Hunt-Ballard makes no attempt to steal the limelight but she’s just so extraordinary that one can’t help watching her open-mouthed for 130 minutes. Wow!

By Kate Herbert

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