‘A fickle finger of fate’ led The Fame Reporter to Understudy Production’s unmissable show, Sweet Charity at The Brisbane Powerhouse. The show was absolute non-stop fun and a huge joy fest. The audience loved every moment in the intimate Visy Theatre. The cast, crew and creatives took this much-loved Bob Fosse show to a whole new level, particularly with Naomi Price at the helm as THE Charity Hope Valentine.
The story follows Charity, a quirky, scrappy, hopeless romantic taxi dancer at ‘The Fandango Ballroom.’ It’s 1966 and her ‘lover’ breaks her heart, well pushes her into a lake and she has to pick herself up and attempt to stay optimist about love.
The show was a wonderful display of charismatic characters and dance numbers that pay homage to Bob Fosse’s original choreography. Dan Venz created the powerful dance scenes that wowed the audience, particularly the iconic fist movement in ‘Rich man’s frug,’ with the ensemble in complete unison. Venz knew exactly how to create the perfect balance with the movement in the show, as he made it contemporary while still holding on to the classic style from the 1960s.
A star has risen; Naomi Price IS Charity Hope Valentine. This is the perfect role for her and she personifies this character to her core and shines like the leader she is. Price definitely embodies the comedy queen within as she plays up to the audience in the most quirky and delightful way.
This bubbly nature is especially prevalent in ‘If my friends could see me now’ and when she is trying to hide in Italian film star, Vittorio Vidal’s apartment when crazy girlfriend barges in. The crowd was in stitches as she landed the physical comedy in this scene. Her character has been let down countless times by men; however Charity is more of a ‘glass half full’ woman and rises above the rejection. Naomi carries the entire show with her powerhouse voice and brave, down-to-earth portrayal of the lead character.
The wonderful Andy Cook plays Italian film star, Vittorio Vidal. Charity runs into the actor one night when she has been too generous to the poor with no penny to her name. Vidal’s impossible girlfriend Ursula storms out of the Club. In this scene the way they use the aisles of the small theatre was brilliant and made it feel like you were part of the action.
Andy’s character has no choice but to ask Charity to escort him inside the Club and he nails the incredible ‘Rich man’s frug’ number with the sassy ensemble. In addition, ‘Too many tomorrows’ was a show-stopping telenovela-esque number with Vittorio’s girlfriend Ursula, played by the gorgeously versatile Lizzie Moore. His incredible hilarious transformation into the star was exquisite and he fully immersed himself into the walk and talk of the Italian diva.
Stephen Hirst embodied the shy tax accountant, Oscar Lindquist. Charity meets Oscar at the YMHA in a cringe-worthy comedic elevator scene. The two characters get stuck in the lift and a whole list of claustrophobic fears come over Oscar. At this moment Charity comforts him as she sings beautifully and encourages him to belt, ‘I’m the bravest individual.’
The performers personify the relationship in the sweetest manner, as this is Charity’s first decent interaction with a guy ever. They are let out of the dodgy elevator and he surprises her by heading to ‘church.’ It turns out to be a hippie culture ‘cult’ and the triple threat ensemble shine wondrously.
The ensemble pull the entire production together as they dance and hone in their multiple characters and stories tremendously. This is particularly illustrated in the infamous ‘Big Spender’ at the dance hall when all of the girls are introducing themselves to the different bachelors. Then at the conclusion of the show in ‘I’m a brass band’ when the ensemble are thrilled with Charity as she is finally in a state of euphoria with a chance to marry Oscar as he reveals he loves her for who she is, however later is a coward and doesn’t go through with it.
A highlight for the ensemble is when they joyously perform ‘Rhythm of Life’ at the hippie church. They all get involved and the leader played by ‘Elliot Baker’ creates a hilarious scene where they all let loose, most half-naked and their voices are stellar.
The direction of the show was creatively executed by co-directors Kris Stewart and Maureen Bowra, to utilise the intimate space and dive straight into the main messages of hope, resilience and pizzazz.
The show is both prevailing and optimistic in finding women empowerment and to show men that women are not a prize to be won. Understudy Production’s Sweet Charity presents a depiction of a real, genuine, hopeful world shown through the eyes of Charity, teaching all to see the light in humanity even in dark times.
All photos – Supplied