Posted by Beep the Meep on Mon, 11 Jun 2012.
Now before I begin I would like to point out I hate the words "professional" and "amateur". I feel it's really demining to an actor to be labelled this way, just because they aren't getting paid, or doing it for fun. "Amateur theatre", as I said in my review of Oklahoma, is a great joy because people are pushing themselves to do something the love. This brings me on to Sweet Charity, which is by the book a musical of hope, insecurity and affection. This production by the wonderful Wigston Amateur Operatic Society is sharp, witty and crafted brilliantly. The most special feeling of this show is that it feels such a community company, both off the stage and on it. Great performances, fantastic chorography and superb staging make this a Broadway standard show.
The story follows the character of dance hall hostess (a sort of gentleman's entertainment) Charity and her desire to leave the ruin down business in search of a new, more respectable life. She meets Oscar, a scared shy man, and they start a friendship which provokes a new kind of love in their hearts, with him giving her the nickname, Sweet Charity.
Star of the show is clearly Alice Oakley as Charity, a wonderful character – a blend of comedy and heart. Oakley performs with such enthusiasm, power and expression that it sends a fabulous buzz around the theatre which just makes one want to smile. Her performance of Charity's title song "If they could see me now" is sparkling and demonstrates a great connection with audience which draws the crowd closer into the show. As the show deepens so does Oakley's performance and the audience seem to connect with this, a notable example would be after her second solo, Where Am I Going, which ends with such dramatic tension it brings a whole new dimension to the show.
Equally fantastic is Kerian Whelan as Oscar. The character initially enters the story as a sort of talking extra before meeting Charity in a stuck lift and become her love interest. Whelan uses great skill in raising his status in the action, so that when he becomes a crucial part of the plot, the audience is already full comfortable with his character, something it takes a great actor to do. He use such a great range of gestures and movements, expanding his kinosphere as his character gets bolder and bolder which gives his whole performance a spark and energy that can make other performers blush.
The staging of this production was fantastic. The set is so simple it gives it so much potential, the black box idea always produces powerful dramatic experiences and it's a credit to the production team that they were brave enough to try it on Sweet Charity. That said, Sweet Charity is a much more multi-locations play than Oklahoma, but instead of being bored to tears with blackouts and big scene changes, the director John Bale makes great use of The Little Theatre's vast collection of curtains and drapes, so that the action moves with wonderful pace.
The dancing, singing and acting of the chorus and other members of the company were phenomenal, it really brings to light what community theatre is about, what was on stage was a group of people who truly believed in this show, and pulled out all the stops for us, the audience to believe it with them. And boy we did!