Arts and Entertainment

Sweeter than most, Sweet Charity is a success

By Amanda Sands
Published: February 2010

On February 4, 5, and 6, South Stage gave three performances of the 1966 musical, Sweet Charity. Under the direction of Leah Fine and choreographer Monica Stein, the cast of nearly 40 pulled together a riveting show that displayed a unique cohesion, talent, and sense of humor.

Starring sophomore Hannah Dober as Charity Hope Valentine, a recently brokenhearted yet optimistic dance hostess at the Fandango Ballroom, and junior Jake Light as Oscar, an accountant who falls in love with Charity, the show assembled a full house of students and parents alike for all performances.

The number of underclassmen stars in the cast was astounding. “South Stage productions base casting on more important things than age¦seniority didn’t affect me at all, sophomore and cast member Allegra Borak said.

The musical opened with Charity sitting on a park bench with her boyfriend, a married man named Charlie, played by sophomore Evan Ogden, when she sings a song about how much she loves him. After this, he pushes her in the lake and snatches her purse.

In the first of many comical scenes, passersbies intrude on the situation, but no one is considerate enough to help the drowning girl.

In keeping with the overarching “every man for himself mantra, this mocks the all too human tendency to passively observe another’s misfortune.

Two cops finally pull Charity out of the water, and she makes her way to the ballroom under the inglorious employment of Herman, played by junior Max Grossman.

The choreographically impressive number “Big Spender follows with dozens of Fandango girls singing about “fun, laughs, and good time, which sums up the girls’ occupation.

While Charity is walking home, she spots the fictional famous movie actor, Vittorio Vidal, played by junior Harry Neff, on the street arguing with his girlfriend, Ursula, played by junior Ellie Crowley.

In this scene, Charity and the stoic doorman observe the fight, and in a huff of rage and vengeance, Vidal grabs Charity and recruits her as his date for the evening. At the Pompeii Club, “Big Spender is one-upped by “Rich Man’s Frug, a brilliantly executed musical number featuring the entire company.

Back at Vidal’s apartment, he offers Charity a hat and cane and mementos of his past movie roles, which she uses in her solo number, “If My Friends Could See Me Now.

Much to the audience’s surprise, Ursula comes to the door, begging to make up with Vidal. Charity, hat in one hand and cane in the other, hides in the closet until morning.

When Charity escapes from Vidal’s apartment, her friends back at the dance hall barely believe with whom she had spent the night.

Charity, Nikki, played by Borak, and Helene, played by senior Maya Lee-Parritz, then announce their plans to leave the ballroom and make something of themselves in the song “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.

Nikki and Helene give up their dream about 10 seconds after they stop singing, but Charity is determined to refine herself. On her way up to a class at the YMCA, an elevator stalls and traps her inside with Oscar Lindquist, a claustrophobic young man whom Charity must pacify while they wait together. They sing a song about bravery, and the first act is over.

It was clear that the entire cast was highly dedicated and that they spent a good amount of time learning their parts. “I think being in any show, regardless of the part or size of the part, requires an actor to be responsible, Borak said.

“Even if you fit a part perfectly, you have to do your homework. You need to think about your character’s objectives, what their relationships with the other characters are, how the character moves, and how he or she talks, Neff said.

The second act begins when Oscar brings Charity to a “church, which is under the Manhattan Bridge. The eccentric church leader, Daddy Brubeck, played by senior Michael RiCharde, leads his congregation in singing “The Rhythm of Life, another creative number complete with Bohemian costumes, unconventional choreography, and tongue-tying lyrics.

Oscar and Charity are from two different social classes, and as much as they love each other, Charity can’t seem to tell him about her job, not even when they’re stuck together on the top of a Coney Island parachute ride. Oscar comforts Charity, since she’s scared of heights, with the song “Sweet Charity.

Charity finally summons the courage to go to the Fandango Ballroom, quit her job, and meet Oscar to admit that she’s not as “pure as he thinks she is.

Oscar says he doesn’t care’€he already knew about her job’€and he suggests that they get married. The elated Charity sings “I’m a Brass Band as cast members skip on and off the stage in red marching band outfits.

After her burst of enthusiasm, she heads back to the dance hall to say goodbye to her friends and boss.  When she enters, Herman and the girls jump out to surprise her with a cheap cake that reads “Happy Birthday, Angelo and a wrapped box that contains baby clothes, due to the fact that one of the girls was under the impression that Charity was pregnant.

Herman and the girls sing “I Love to Cry at Weddings while Charity says her final goodbyes.

All seems well, but then, suddenly, Oscar breaks down, chickens out, and runs away from Charity, ending the engagement. Next is a curtain call.

Considering the comedy and vivacity of the show, Sweet Charity ended more depressingly than it had begun.

Is Charity’s life doomed to continue in this vicious cycle of failed romances?  Or does it all come down to hope and optimism’€that one day, if she doesn’t give up, Charity will end up all right?

Aside from its ending, which couldn’t be helped, the show overall was well done’€from the digital scenery and simplistic sets to the sound effects and meticulous attention to detail’€but it was the memorable ensemble numbers that enhanced its quality. These fabulous routines stood out from the other songs that only featured one or two people.

Although the entire play didn’t appear under-rehearsed to the audience, Neff felt that more rehearsals would have helped, and that some cast members didn’t think the show would be “polished enough by opening night. “However, I think we [exceeded] our own expectations. We had a lot of fun with it, Neff said.

“Focus during rehearsal and the amount of time put into a show outside of rehearsal [most affect the final performance], Borak said. “I think [our high] expectations were met because of the dedication and ability of our cast and crew.

“[The audience] seemed to enjoy it and it’s great to know we had done our job, Neff said.

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