Review by Terry Gaisin
SHERIDAN’s Theatre Arts Faculty staged the musical version of Neil Simon’s take on Fellini back in 2004. The production was so professionally presented as to tie with the Royal Opera’s ‘Aida’ as best of O.A.R.’s TOP TEN. This year’s effort directed and choreographed by Sheila McCarthy is very enjoyable and certainly does justice to Pollyanna-ish ‘Charity Hope Valentine’; a taxi dancer who seems constantly able to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory! One of those days is her norm. In the title role, Amanda Trapp manages to capture the audience’s sympathy and understanding.
She definitely makes the lead role her own, with her singing, dancing and sunny disposition.
As her first boyfriend, Jean-Paul Parker displays no facial expression; no emoting and dumps her…literally; into a lake after stealing her purse. McCarthy has judiciously telegraphed what is Parker’s intention. Boyfriend no. 2 is a geeky Jordan Kenny who seems to hold the potential to give her a life that’s “Something better than this”; a memorable musical number. The girl’s manager is portrayed by Elijah Manalo as an aggressive boss with a paternal attitude towards his minions. There are some convincing support roles such as movie star Vittorio (Tristan Hernandez) who brings her up to his hotel room, and affording her an opportunity to belt out the show-stopping “If my friends could see me now” that’s become a stand-alone iconic hit. However, his girlfriend’s arrival screws (sic) up the assignation. The critical role of sounding board and experienced advisor is that of cohort –‘Nickie’. The rendering by Jessica Watters is a credible take on the ‘second banana’ mentor that is a ubiquitous & recognizable vehicle in theatre. The small role of hippie minister ‘Daddy Brubeck’ is played by Nestor Lozano Jr. who by direction, is a little hammy.
The choreography contains some amazing instances of gymnastics and lifts. The chorus never faltered from synchronization with the music. The deliberate moments of interaction between musicians and on-stage cast adds a waggish distraction that is a creative bit of direction. David Juby’s costumes are appealing and unique to each of the dancers and their personas. Lighting and special effects further enhance the overall impression of tawdriness as well as the modicum of optimism that Charity brings to the place. This is a worthwhile effort that deserves a full audience for all of the performances left until Feb. 28th. The Studio Theatre is a bit of walk from the ticket booth, so leave yourself time! Curtain is 7:30pm