Review: 'Sweet Charity' at WaterTower Theatre
Sweet Charity, along with the original productions of Pippin and Chicago, also starring his wife and muse Gwen Verdon, is one of Bob Fosse’s most famous projects: he directed and choreographed the original Broadway production in 1966. The show was nominated for nine Tony awards, and has a number of revivals, West End productions, and international productions. The stage production was adapted for the big screen three years later, also directed by Fosse, and starring Shirley MacLaine. Some famous faces taking on the role of Charity include Debbie Allen, Ann Reinking, Charlotte d’Amboise, Christina Applegate, Molly Ringwald, and Paige Davis, not to mention supporting appearances by Bebe Neuwirth, Dennis O’Hare, Chita Rivera, Donna McKechnie, and many more throughout the years.
Open on young, high-spirited, and undeniably likable Charity, a taxi dancer at the Fandango Ballroom dance hall in the Big Apple in the mid-sixties. She’s waiting to meet her boyfriend, Charlie, who, when Charity gets too carried away in her own fantasy, pushes her into the lake and steals her handbag. Back at the club, Charity tries to convince the other dancers, as well as herself, that Charlie’s actions were purely accidental. Nickie, a fellow dancer, tells Charity that she’s too much of a push-over. After the iconic “Big Spender”, Nickie and Helene, Charity’s closest friends of her fellows, try to comfort her, but this only leads Charity to vow to make some changes in her life. An international film star, a come-to-Jesus moment, an elevator ride of a lifetime with the possible Mr. Right, and a quick romp with some hippies lead Charity to the life she’s always wanted.
The production itself is deliciously, nostalgically mod and all-around fun- and the style is wonderfully Fosse, as well as undeniably Neil Simon. Under the direction of Michael Serrecchia, WaterTower’s production of this Fosse classic is a charming good time with legs for miles that’s a downright good time. The minute you walk in the joint, there’s no doubt this will be a production for the ages: Chris Pickart’s set design features an onstage band, perfect for the Fandango Ballroom, as well as perfect showbiz bulbs, and an undoubtedly old Broadway/Fosse feel, setting the mood perfectly. This is perfectly coupled with Jason Foster’s spot-on mod lighting design- it’s hard not to be completely taken with his use of oh-so-sixties style go-bos during the Club Pompeii dance scene. For two hours, one is transported into the world of yester-year.
As far as the ensemble of characters, this cast is pretty up there. As Charity, Whitney Hennen is completely charming and lovably Charity, with high kicks and high notes to boot. She’s got the modern feel of Christina Applegate, with the spunk of Gwen Verdon, and is just downright adorable and perfect in the part of the original girl power girl.
In the contrasting roles of the dashing Italiano hotshot film star Vittorio Vidal and Charity’s meeker beau Oscar Lindquist, Luke Longacre walks this fine line with serious precision, making the viewer double take, and fall in love with either/or. His vocals are as spot on as Vittorio Vidal’s pencil mustache, and his manic elevator panic will have the audience rolling in the aisles.
The ensemble is as sharp as they are downright sexy, perfectly encapsulating the mid-sixties, Jane Fonda-esque typical vixen feel, which is truly a pleasure to watch for any Fosse junkie. As Nickie and Helene respectively, Kia Boyer and Lindsay Longacre provide an edge that borderline foils Charity, yet still give the audience some strong ladies to root for. Boyer is perfect, reminiscent of the likes of a Jenji Kohan heroine (such as Natasha Lyonne or Mary-Louise Parker) of the era, and Longacre is the original down-on-her-luck NYC gal with the vocals of Ann Harada- Brava, ladies!
Sweet Charity is a musical theatre treasure and a must for any Fosse enthusiast and WaterTower’s production does not disappoint. It’s got perfectly placed nostalgia, glamour, dancing girls, and a little extra meat for the more serious theatre goer. This is a production not to be missed by any lover of theatre classics, or really anyone in the mood to have fun or a few laughs- they’ll show you a good time.
WaterTower Theatre presents
July 24 - August 16, 2015
at the Addison Theater Center
15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001
Box office: 972-450-6232