Review by Danny Gaisin
Neil Simon’s reiteration of Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria” was an immediate Broadway hit. Understandable as it has all the ingredients: – memorable music; clever dialogue; comedic moments coupled with pathos and clever lyrics. SHAW’s rendering is gem-like from the opening “You’ve got Mail”-type projected credits and Charity’s belting out of “You should see yourself”. The pace is frenetic; the cast superb and Morris Panych’s direction is faultless. This has to be an O.A.R. Top Ten list contender. Photo courtesy of SHAW’s David Cooper
The plot deals with a young dance Hall hostess who still hasn’t lost all of her optimism, in spite of a history of social maltreatment. She epitomizes her eight counterparts hoping against reality for a Prince Charming, or even an earl or viscount and a ‘happy ever after’ life. Naturally the show pivots around Charity and Julie Martell is the triple-threat talent needed to fill the role. Her timing; high-wattage smile; voice and dancing skill are all demonstrated. She receives strong support from two of the Fandango ‘ladies’; Kimberley Rampersad and Melanie Phillipson. Both bring full measure to their role interpretations and their major duets “There’s got to be something better” and the Act II “Baby, dream your dream” number are definitely CD worthy.
Martell’s big number is “if my friends could see me now” wherein she’s enthralled by being in Mark Uhre’s boudoir. He’s famous movie star Vittorio Vidal (or Veedle’ according to a certain T.V. comedienne). She dances; bounces; does acrobatics and is super-active throughout the entire number. Her final love interest ‘Oscar’ is portrayed by Kyle Blair and even though he too, disappoints her in the end, he too is a sympathetic character.
There are some major chorus numbers that are meticulously choreographed and faultlessly performed. The ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ in the opening act is as impacting as the play’s major hit “BIG SPENDER” or the syncopated tap piece near the finale. All these offerings are hits even out of Sweet Charity’s context. Charlotte Dean’s costumes are sexy and effective; the stage set by Ken MacDonald is creative, effective and utilitarian. An outstanding contribution is from Paul Sportelli’s musical direction. To keep his musicians as well as the actors on key & on cue is a Herculean task. No wonder the audience acknowledges him and them.
Occasionally it’s a challenge for a writer to come up with a title line; with SWEET CHARITY, the girls of the Fandango Dance hall say it all when they invite the patrons to “have fun; laughs and good times”. With clear conscience, I offer the same invitation to theatregoers who consider seeing Charity Valentine and her cohorts at the Festival Theatre until October 31st.