Spending a little time with Sweet Charity

Elisa Eckstein reviews Trinity Musical Theatre’s annual production

Dazzling, charming, and a little bit seductive. This year’s Trinity Musical Theatre production, Sweet Charity, opened with a bang last Wednesday 22 February at the O’Reilly Theatre. The musical was adapted to be “sexy, sharp and fun” by director Beth Strahan, a third year Drama and Theatre studies student. 

I had never seen a student production, and so had no idea what to expect. Walking into the theatre with my friends, we were greeted by a live orchestra below the stage. This was later instrumental in transporting the audience back in time to the 60s. The show started with the unmistakable first notes of “Big Spender”, and from then on, we were all hooked. 

Sweet Charity is a heartwarming yet comedic tale set in 1960s New York that follows dance hall worker Charity Valentine (played by Lily Kate Hearns) on her path to find love, and ultimately, herself. On this journey, Charity meets numerous characters, such as Italian film star Vittorio Vidal (played by Tom Dwan) and cult leader Daddy (played by Owen Henry); culminating in her meeting the story’s love interest, Oscar (played by Dan Whelan). Despite many emotional ups and downs, Charity is supported along the way by her house mothers, Nickie (played by Anabel Sweeney) and Helene (played by Sadhbh Murphy), as well as other dance hall workers. 

While the story itself may be at times a little cheesy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Strahan’s adaptation and the actor’s interpretation is refreshing and immensely enjoyable: one moment pulling at our heart-strings, and the next making us laugh. In scenes such as ‘Too Many Tomorrows’, depicting Italian film-star Vittorio Vidal affirming his love for his partner, and ‘I’m the Bravest Individual’, where Charity and Oscar are forced to confront their fears in an elevator, there is a balance of emotion and comedy from the cast that gives the scenes a new depth. Emotion isn’t the only thing this production brought to the table. The cast also performed back to back physical and all-involving dance numbers, as well as numerous cast songs. Each was beautifully executed; even the more challenging numbers such as the brilliantly mad ‘Rhythm of Life’ scene. The ensemble added atmosphere, witty one-liners and truly transported watchers back to the 60s.

It was also interesting to see how Strahan adapted a Broadway musical to a student production while keeping all the flair, drama and dazzle of the original show. The use of only the essential set pieces along with well-placed lighting didn’t feel like a budgeting choice, rather a smart move to keep attention on the storyline and actors while still providing context. Similarly, it seemed like many of the costumes were sourced from the cast (or their wardrobes rather), as each member had a distinguishingly personal outfit for each scene; this was a great way of being sustainable, while showing that such a move not only enhances your show, but makes it unique as well. 

Overall, a massive round of applause to the cast and crew, and especially to Beth Strahan. It is clear that everyone involved had as much fun making the show as we had watching it; the hard, but probably very enjoyable, work definitely paid off. Sweet Charity has set the standard for any other upcoming shows very high.