"Why do you believe in love?"
"I don't know, you gotta have some religion."
"Is that your religion?"
"Well . . . I go to church an awful lot."
So says Charity Hope Valentine, the lovelorn title character in Sweet Charity, Montclair Operetta Club’s spring musical about a spunky waif who tumbles in and out of love -- with often disastrous results.
Sweet Charity, a universal tale of hope, love and dreams, is playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Bloomfield College's Westminster Arts Center. Don't miss it.
The show tells the tale of a sweet and innocent young woman who works as a "dancer for hire" at the seedy Fandango dance hall and can't help attracting one scoundrel after another. Charity’s predicaments create situations that are both hilarious and poignant, and this is the axis on which the story spins. The challenge in staging a show like Sweet Charity is to strike a balance between the tragic and comic elements in the story, and Montclair’s seasoned operetta company meets that challenge.
Bob Cline, veteran director of 12 MOC shows (Cline also directed over 30 shows at the Westminster Arts Center) successfully teams up with Montclair State University grad Allie Foote, a "triple threat" in the title role. An alto belter/soprano mix, Foote possesses a range of vocal ability, dance moves and acting chops that carry the show.
“Allie’s voice is incredible,” raved Cline after last Sunday’s performance. “I was so lucky to have her. She’s beautiful, talented and such a hard worker.”
Foote is always on point as the star-crossed but ever hopeful Valentine, moving effortlessly from hearfelt soliloquys to energetic dance solos. Standouts in the show are dancer-singer Chelsea Wright-Cicci as Nikki and singer Todd Shumpert as Italian lothario Vittorio Vidal, while character actors Gus Ilbranyi and Uton Onyejekwe imbue the show with personality.
The show's Fosse-inspired dance numbers lend a stylized but somewhat sleazy flair to the production that calls to mind Cabaret's Kit Kat girls and the jaded jailbirds of Chicago. Knockout dance numbers include “Rich Man’s Frug” (company) and “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” featuring Foote, Wright-Cicci and Erin McNerney.
Historically, Sweet Charity has a pretty impressive pedigree. Based on the original screenplay by Federico Fellini, which featured a feisty but naïve prostitute as the lead character, it later evolved into an urban fable American familiar to audiences. Penned by Neil Simon for the Broadway stage in 1966, it was choreographed by Bob Fosse and adapted for the screen in 1969. The film version starred Shirley MacLaine.
While the story is largely timeless, certain elements, notably the “Rhythm of Life” number – which borrows heavily from “JC Superstar” – has a late-sixties vibe that feels dated in 2012 and somewhat discordant with the rest of the show. Still, the dedicated cast delivers high-quality professional performances that are surefire crowd-pleasers.
“I was lucky to have so many great dancers, especially this talented group of great guy dancers,” said Cline. “New Jersey has such smart audiences. They know theater and they know talent.”
at the Westminster Arts Center, 449 Franklin St, Bloomfield
Friday & Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm (doors open 30 minutes before show time)
With music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and book by Neil Simon (based on Federico Fellini’s film, "Nights of Cabiria"), the Tony award-winning musical comedy features favorites like “Big Spender,” “Rhythm of Life,” and “If They Could See Me Now.”
Tickets for Sweet Charity are $25 for Adults, $22 for Senior Citizens, $15 for Students with a valid ID, and $4 for Bloomfield College Students with a valid ID.