Sweet Charity

An ode to Fellini and Fosse
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

Sweet Charity was a Broadway smash hit, and moreso in its transfer to the screen. Playwright Neil Simon adapted the story from Federico Fellini's tragicomic masterpiece Nights of Cabiria, 1958 winner at the Academy Award's Best Foreign Language Film category.
A decade after its cinematic triumph, Shirley Maclaine steps into the shoes of Giuletta Masina; essaying role of a prostitute who falls in love with a young man who is unaware of her shady profession (or so it seems). The musical numbers by Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman are downright terrific! This was Bob Fosse's directorial debut.
The spirit of the 1960's, set in a nightclub in New York, will once again come to life as 9 Works Theatrical presents one of Broadway's most sensational and critically-acclaimed Fosse musicals. However, the production will be based on the 2005 revival with Christina Applegate, and not that of Maclaine; which means a lot remains to be seen and desired as the interpretation of 9Works Theatrical is not strictly by the book.
After a slew of promotional snippets around the metro, the show is set to pop its cork on Aug 5th (8pm) at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater inside the spacious RCBC Plaza. The musical follows the misadventures of dance-hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine (Nikki Gil), a woman who believes in that swoony, goopy, look-into-your-eyes-forever kind of love. In a desperate attempt to find Mr. Right, she always ends up giving her heart and dreams (money included) to the wrong man. It's Barbara Cartland all over, except that there's music & dance along the way. “The rent-a-body thing is the same in any era. As actors, we expand the audience of theater unto those who are accustomed to mainstream entertainment like television and cinema,” said lead star Nikki Gil.
Sweet Charity was originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse when it premiered on Broadway in 1966. With over 600 performances, the production won the Tony for Best Choreography before opening in London the following year. “How one acts out the movement and show the dance is the essence of a Fosse choreography. You see all these details in stunning productions like Burlesque and Chicago where sensual jazzy moves are highlighted,” opined show dance master Peter Alcedo.
“Though the milieu is in the '60s, it will be staged in the now. The costume's silhouettes and color combinations may be loyal to the '60s but the fabrics will be contemporary. We removed most of the blocking from the script and took liberties to do it our way though the movements are strictly Fosse. This is one production that is a musical in every sense of the word. It's a dancing show too, with great opportunity for use of dramatic movements. And with Cy Coleman's rhythms and Dorothy Field's vernacular fun of '60s Manhattan, there will be all-time and great show-stopping numbers that will sizzle. Above all, it's going to be fun,” shared show director Robbie Guevarra.
Coleman's music has jazzy and blues influence as well as inspiring ballads; featuring such hits as Hey, Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now and There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This. The techno, percussion orchestration ties in beautifully with Field's lively and witty lyrics.
“I'm doing this as part of my growth as an artist. There's a point where one's career seems stagnant yet you wanna go on. This medium opens new doors in my craft,” confessed singer Kris Lawrence who plays Oscar Lindquist, Charity's unwitting love interest.
Breathing life into the fab roles played by Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly in the cinema version are Sheila Valderrama-Martinez (Nickie) and Ciara Sotto (Helene), as two of Charity's closest confidantes at the Fandango Ballroom. “The '60s was the dawn of sexual revolution. It would be a vicarious trip unto that era plus it would be a privilege to do a Fosse musical,” intoned Sheila.
For this show, the production team took the liberty of adding another confidante character in the person of Sheree Bautista (Carmen), one of Charity's co-dancers. A Viva Hot Babe who ventured into the musical theater scene, her role as Mimi in the rock musical Rent has proven that, indeed, her musical artistry was well-received by all and sundry 'bubuka man o sasara ang bulaklak.' “What's exciting about theater is you get to play roles from different eras like the '60s that gave birth to a lot of vices. It allows us to inspire people and audiences with what we do. This is a change of image for me from my mischievous Bulaklak days,” enthused Sheree, who impressed everyone with her “hidden” talents.
Sweet Charity runs 'til August 27 with gala shows (8pm) Fridays and Saturdays; and matinee shows (3:30pm) on Saturdays and (4pm) Sundays.The Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at the 4th level of the RCBC Plaza along the intersection of Ayala and Sen. Gil Puyat in Makati City.


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