The Brighton Academy of Performing Arts uses its Preston Park studio theatre to showcase the talents of its students. It's probably not the ultimate location for a glitzy musical like Sweet Charity, yet this is a finely executed production that, with ingenuity and simplicity, converts the bare floor space into the multiple locations that in a full-scale theatre would have the benefit of lavish sets.
Clearly a name to look out for and a huge contribution to the local arts scene
Wheeling the versatile costume rails around they create the dressing room, the nightclub hall and the apartment wardrobe. They clear the floor completely for the exuberantly choreographed and stylishly danced routines. Praise to Kate Alexander and Emma Green for making use of every inch of the limited space and capturing the mood of this show. This is an intimate production with the audience seated on three sides of each location and the buoyant cast are clearly not intimidated by this proximity and frequently play to it. They are, after all, at home here.
Taking centre stage is Emily Richardson as Charity Hope Valentine. She wears her heart upon her sleeve in pursuit of love and a life away from her trapped existence as a taxi dancer at the Fandango Ballroom. Exuding confidence and charisma she looks the part and has the voice to carry off well-known numbers. Ironically what have become the two best known songs from the show are given to other characters to perform. It is Nickie (Mia Price) and Helene (Nicola Cosshall) and the Girls to whom Big Spender falls. Forget Shirley Bassey at this point, here the song is more subtle and seductive; delivered in a nuanced manner befitting the clientele.
The production rises to its height in the breathtaking Rhythm of Life. Making use, not for the first time, of the balconies, the cast descends to the floor led by Tatenda Madamombe, as Daddy, in a fast-paced, action-packed song and dance routine. His considerable talent was evident throughout the show in all his roles, being noteworthy for the precision of execution and intensity of character he demonstrated. The stunning array of colours in the hippie tie-and-dye outfits added a further dimension of vivacity. Indeed, the costumes throughout were a joy. The short, sequinned dresses of the hostesses in vibrant colours glittered glamourously in the lights. Director Verena Lewis certainly didn't lack inspiration in this department. In contrast to the rest of the routines she took a leaf out of Coco Chanel's book to dance one whole scene exclusively in black and white outfits.
Other guys making an impressive contribution were the smooth Carl Lovejoy as the Italian film star Vittorio Vidal and Daniel Wallage as Oscar, who attempts to take Charity away to a new life but is frustrated by his own demons. The production made use of piano accompaniment for the most part with some orchestral recordings. Arguably, using a full soundtrack would have raised the impact of the show, but having made the decision to run it from the keyboard, Musical Director Brett Wellcome sustained the production's pace throughout as did the versatile and talented chorus.
The Brighton Academy took its first students in 2011 and boasts a hundred percent success rate in student placement. Clearly a name to look out for and a huge contribution to the local arts scene.