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Sweet Charity - Roleystone Theatre

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


With the “fickle finger of fate” intervening in the construction of the new Roleystone Theatre, and thus requiring a change of venue, their current production of Sweet Charity is currently being performed at Armadale Hall. This golden age musical, made famous through Bob Fosse’s unique style in both the original Broadway staging and the film with Shirley MacLaine, includes songs that audience members will recognise, even if they don’t know where they know them from.

The star-vehicle role of Charity Hope Valentine, a hopeless and luckless romantic dance hall hostess, is a challenging one that is beautifully captured by Arianne Wescott-King, both characteristically and vocally. Arianne is well supported by both Cortni Cooper as Nickie and Jessica Reynolds as Helene, both of whom give strong triple-threat performances and create lovely three-dimensional relationships between the trio, as well as building a good dynamic with Herman (played by Paul Treasure).

The supporting cast is overwhelmingly strong in this production. Jason Nettle gives us a layered portrayal of Oscar Lindquist, with a lot of energy in both the elevator scene and the final scene of the show. Christian Dichera is an audience favourite as Vittorio Vidal, with a vocally strong performance and good rapport with Jordan D’Arcy’s wonderfully neurotic Ursula March. Callum Presbury also has a scene-stealing moment as Daddy Brubeck in Rhythm of Life.

The large cavernous space at Armadale Hall is always a challenge for any director. Chloe Palliser has taken this challenge on, as both the director and choreographer - very much following the lead of Bob Fosse in the original Broadway run. The use of the stage itself to house the substantial band was a good one, leaving the main performing space to be the width of the hall floor itself. The challenge, however, is then that the width of the space can feel empty, especially with a lot of the action happening downstage and close to the audience. This closeness also caused some sightline issues for those audience members in the cabaret seating. There was also one scene up high behind the audience, which did cause some difficulties for the audience in the raked seating, due to the twisting around required to get a good view.

The use of rotating trucks with different sets built on each side helped fill the width, with a large set of rostra centre stage. There was a tendency to move all the dances onto the central rostra, rather than keeping them grounded to the locations established by the rotated trucks. This led to a lot of “scene here, song/dance here” which made the songs feel less organic with the story. The choreography itself was interesting and performed well by the strong ensemble, with a particular shout-out to Rhythm of Life, which filled the space and embodied the feeling of the song really well. The choreography in some of the other numbers occasionally felt placed rather than having integrated movement or character work to move between the formations, which was exacerbated by the centralisation of the dancing itself.

The lighting added a lot of atmosphere, with a high saturation of colour throughout the show. There was a lot of spill in some of the more intimate scenes, but this is more down to the available rig in the venue rather than what may have been intended. The use of a spotlight at times helped to pick out the leading characters, a technique that could have been used more to let the audience find the leading characters and their reactions more easily. Whilst the use of UV lighting during Rhythm of Life was a great idea, there wasn’t enough fluorescent colour or bright white in those costumes to gain the full effect. The costuming and hair overall were effective, however, with a lot of character details being given in the differences between characters whilst still all fitting together for the period.

From a vocal perspective, the show is of a high standard. There are a couple of moments where the vocal styles of some performers don’t gel together and some where it sounds like the soprano and tenor lines are higher than the performers’ ranges, but it doesn’t detract from the show meaningfully. The main difficulty sound-wise is the balance between the band and the vocals. There are multiple times through the show where we lose lines because some ensemble members aren’t wearing microphones, and quieter sung moments get drowned out by the band. This is partly caused by the band placement behind the performers, and may well be one that gets re-balanced throughout the season.

This is a show to see for the performances - all of the ensemble and supporting cast do a beautiful job of building the world around Charity. With a short season, this golden-age classic is one to get down and see if you can.

Cortni Cooper (Nickie), Arianne Westcott-King (Charity Hope Valentine) and Jessica Reynolds (Helene). Image Credit: Curtain Call Creatives.

Reviewer Note: Kate has performed multiple times at Roleystone Theatre, most recently in 2022, including in shows directed by members of this cast/crew. As such, due to the potential of a perceived conflict of interest, the production team and theatre committee was contacted and permission was granted for this reviewer to attend on behalf of Theatre Reviews Perth. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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