Holiday Actors Opens Sweet Charity and There is No Sweeter Sound

Sweet Charity Review by Aradie Walters

32 years and 40 musical productions. Holiday Actors has a rich history of not only putting on quality shows, but of nurturing young people in their skills and confidence, and giving them opportunities to lead. As a past “HA kid” myself, I have experienced firsthand the value of peer-mentoring that this company offers. This summer’s production of Sweet Charity is not only yet another first class theatrical experience for Warrnambool audiences, but it is the product of a group of young people who have “stepped up” in every sense of the word.

HA326As the overture begins, the audience is struck by the large, full sound of an enormous 24-piece orchestra led by 19 year old, Nikki Nuske. Fresh off the back of musically directing Godspell in 2016, this production marks Nikki’s first time actually conducting – something you would never guess to watch her as she smoothly guides the polished orchestra through each rousing chorus, with the subtleties of dynamics and articulation making those well-known songs larger than life.

The lights come up on the title character, Charity Hope Valentine, played by 15 year old Zara Lukeis. Again, there is surprise to learn that this is Zara’s first lead role, as she is mesmerising to watch. Her vocal tone is clear and pitch-perfect, but it is when she dances that you can feel her joy.

The dancing in this show is something worth mentioning all on its own. 22 year old choreographer, Emily Trigg, is the only veteran on the young direction team with Sweet Charity marking her fifth production with Holiday Actors. Emily is a master interpreter, and has really brought her own flair to the Bob Fosse style. The dances are not only polished and well-executed, but visually interesting to watch, with different layers of focus.

Something that struck me about Sweet Charity is how funny it is, in absurd and surprising ways. Stand out performances that had me giggling out loud include Lyndon Hurley, 17, in the role of the Italian movie star, Vittorio Vidal. Last time I saw Lyndon on stage, he was Jean Valjean. He could not be more different now with his over-the-top accent, soap-opera smiles and little winks to the audience. There is also the nervous and socially awkward Oscar, played by Gabriel Tejano, 17 – another newbie to musical theatre, having impulsively decided to audition for the school musical last year.

One of the biggest moments of the show is the opening song of Act 2, with that song made famous by Sammy Davis Jr., Rhythm of Life. This scene is loud and colourful, and led by the very funny and very talented Keelan Mast, 17, in the role of the enigmatic leader of the Rhythm of Life Church. I had been looking forward to seeing this song and it surpassed all my expectations.

There are way too many excellent cameo performances in this show to name, although I would dearly love to! Something that first-time directors Caleb Ziegeler, 23, and Tobin Varley, 19, have excelled at is encouraging the ensemble not to just be “background people”. They each have their own quirky characters and little moments to shine, never drawing focus from the main action, but instead adding authenticity to it. That, together with their masterful vocal performances, overseen by Vocal Director Rebecca Fullerton, 19, this ensemble act as a team, and you can see in every moment how much they’re enjoying themselves.

This whole production is simply a lot of fun. Slightly tweaked to be family-friendly, Sweet Charity is a rollicking, not-to-be-taken-too-seriously show about hope and optimism, that will leave the audience smiling and humming to themselves.

Sweet Charity opens tonight at the Lighthouse Theatre and continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, all at 7:30pm, with a matinee also on Saturday at 1:30pm. Tickets available at the theatre or at www.lighthousetheatre.com.au.