REVIEW: You’re just gonna love Sweet Charity

Charity (Carla McColgan) sprawls on Vittorio's bed. All photos: sheilascottphfotography.com
Charity (Carla McColgan) sprawls on Vittorio's bed. All photos: sheilascottphfotography.com

Galashiels Amateur Operatic Society takes on another new musical this week in Sweet Charity.

It’s a foot-stomping celebration of just what you can do with a few well-known tunes, a talented cast and a superb orchestra.

Daddy Brubeck (William Pearson) with his Rhythm of Life Church congregation.

Daddy Brubeck (William Pearson) with his Rhythm of Life Church congregation.

Like Selkirk’s offering last week, this has a fairly uncomfortable premise. It’s set in pre-feminist 1960s America and is fairly short of moral values.

The eponymous lead character herself, dance hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine, is not entirely likeable at first glance. She’s gloriously gullible, a bit pathetic in her quest for love and quite morally bankrupt, as she is quite happy to split up a marriage in that quest.

Therefore, Carla McColgan, who plays her, has her work cut out to charm the audience, but she does this with some ease.

The sheer energy she displays in everything Charity does is stunning, and every line, every movement is cast with a tentative mix of devil-may-care and pure sweetness, and she, like the rest of the performers, is polished to perfection.

Charity (Carla McColgan) and Oscar (Clark Eaton Turner) share an intimate moment on the Ferris wheel.

Charity (Carla McColgan) and Oscar (Clark Eaton Turner) share an intimate moment on the Ferris wheel.

It is mostly the performances of Carla and Clark Eaton Turner, who plays her main love interest Oscar, that stop the whole thing from being too sleazy. It’s a story that is carried greatly by its songs, and it’s how they are sung that tell the tragedy of the back story, leaving Charity to keep the rest of it mostly light and airy.

When Shirley Bassey belts out Big Spender, it’s taken to be the words of a woman looking for a male provider on a primal level, and is sure of success.

But here, when the girls at the Fandango club are on the lookout for clients, it’s an incredibly sad song, sung by desperate women on the dark fringes of society.

And Charity’s version of If My Friends Could See Me Now, belted out before and during her night spent in Italian movie actor Vittorio Vidal’s closet, also has double meanings.

The dance hall hostesses bang out Hey Big Spender.

The dance hall hostesses bang out Hey Big Spender.

But the biggest number, for me, has to be Rhythm of Life, sung by William Pearson as the Rev. Daddy Brubeck and the entire ensemble as his congregation. Here, it’s a showstopping blast, sung to perfection by all, especially the staccato-style ending. Other notable performances come from Jack McAulay and Lynsey Cullen as Vittorio and his crazy partner Ursula March with Too Many Tomorrows; and the brassy pairing of Charity’s pals Nickie and Helene, played by the wonderfully audacious Ruth Davidson and Jan Baird, with Baby Dream Your Dream.

But there’s a good deal of laughs, too, such as Oscar and Charity in the broken-down lift, singing Bravest Individual, and the fairly unsavoury club boss Herman, played by Daniel Wilson, kicking off I Love To Cry At Weddings.

The show runs nightly at 7.30pm until Saturday ... so don’t ask Where Am I Going? Just head on over to the Volunteer Hall ... you won’t regret it!

Herman (Daniel Wilson) prepares a special party for the departing Charity (Carla McColgan) and Oscar (Clark Eaton Turner).

Herman (Daniel Wilson) prepares a special party for the departing Charity (Carla McColgan) and Oscar (Clark Eaton Turner).