Glimmers of hope, mantras of love

Blue Canoe Productions kicks off a new season with their first leading lady

Sweet Charity tells the story of a down-and-out burlesque dancer who uses generosity to try get ahead in life and love.
Sweet Charity tells the story of a down-and-out burlesque dancer who uses generosity to try get ahead in life and love.
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It’s certainly the season for dramatic productions on Queen’s campus and Kingston as a whole. With Queen’s Musical Theatre and Queen’s Student Opera Company wrapping up their fall productions, the spotlight has fallen on Blue Canoe Productions and their staging of Sweet Charity.

And they’ve certainly delivered; the company’s 13th production was entertaining in so many aspects and packed a powerful dramatic punch.

Sweet Charity originally ran from Jan. 29th, 1966 to July 15th, 1967, for a total of 608 performances, and was a critical success in its run, garnering nominations for 12 Tony Awards. What makes this show special and different from Blue Canoe’s previous productions in their five years of existence is the show is the first they have ever done that features a lady in the leading role.

Sweet Charity tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a down-and-out burlesque dancer in New York City in the early 1960s. Faced with a seemingly loveless life, and determined to break free of the grim prospects of working in a “gentlemen’s club,” she uses her innately generous nature and kind and friendly personality to try and get ahead for the first time in her life.

As Charity, Lucie Robathan provides an exceptional performance. She manages to perfectly balance a happy-go-lucky nature with an innate confidence, while all the while maintaining a noticeable nervous energy to her character that’s able to propel the story forward and keep emotion at the forefront.

She shows particular charisma onstage with Dylan On, in the role of Oscar. One notable scene occurs near the end of the first act when the two are trapped in an elevator and must deal with their various anxieties such as claustrophobia and running out of air. The two combine for a hilarious scene that will certainly leave audiences doubled over in laughter.

Besides the particularly dynamic duo of Robathan and On, there are numerous other characters that truly bring the story to life. The bitter, cynical nature of dancers Nickie and Helene (Shruti Kothari and Hannah May) make for some slightly combative scenes with Charity but add a lot to the humour of the show and create some visually stunning musical numbers.

Ursula March (Kyla Dewey), the jilted lover of movie star Vittorio Vidal (Adam Holroyd), leaves audiences in stitches with her jealous reactions to her man’s apologies to Charity for accidentally bumping into her. She exits the stage with a final shriek of disbelief to draw additional chortles from the audience.

The entire cast is talented, with strong singing and dancing abilities; snappy, clever dialogue and stellar physical comedy. This show simply wouldn’t work without the strong supporting cast, and it’s their work that really rounds out the show and allows it to leave its mark on the audience.

The true differentiator for Sweet Charity is the fact that it deals with much darker themes than other shows that might be considered in the same vein, such as Chicago or Gypsy, due to the addressing of such themes as societal decay and shifting gender roles in a modern world. Charity’s bright, positive outlook in life combats these darker, subtle ideas, and it’s apparent in the vibrant musical numbers that occur throughout the show.

Sweet Charity’s musical accompaniment serves as a representation of Charity’s positive attitude, and happy, upbeat numbers are common throughout the show. The ten-piece orchestra directed by bassist Brock Ingrassia and trombonist Matt Aylsworth, is very tight and provides excellent atmosphere for the action onstage, backing up the spirited singing and dancing by the cast. The band’s prowess is additionally notable due to the fact that there is no true conductor; both men are playing instruments and giving cues simultaneously.

With humour, emotion, singing and dancing aplenty, Sweet Charity is not a show to be missed. Alexsandra Marzocca, the show’s director, has stayed fairly true to the original showing, and has struck the perfect balance between all the different elements of the show.

Though bittersweet in the end, Sweet Charity remains an excellent example of the importance of staying positive in an ever-increasingly negative society. With such a strong showing of this play, it will certainly be interesting to see Blue Canoe’s later shows this year.

Sweet Charity runs from Jan. 20th-22nd and 26th-29th in Convocation Hall, upstairs in Theological Hall. All shows start at 8 p.m., plus a matinee showing at 2 p.m. on Saturday the 29th. Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for students and $12 for children; they are available at the Grand Theatre box office (218 Princess St.), at Tri-Colour Outfitters in the JDUC and at the door in Theological Hall.

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