Aug 18, 2011

[Theater] Sweet Charity (9 Works Theatrical)

Admittedly most of my theater time is divided between the plays put up by Atlantis Productions and Repertory Philippines. I suppose because it's largely because of familiarity plus the ease of acquiring tickets given already established contacts and / or channels. But every now and then we come across another play of interest that seems worth investing in from the other theater groups active in the country.

Nikki Gil is certainly and up-and-coming star in the local theater scene. She totally blew us away when we first saw her in Atlantis' Legally Blonde and since then I've been curious to see where her career will take her. Thus when news of this play came along despite it being from a largely unfamiliar theater company, I couldn't help but be curious.

An opening appeared amid our ever-hectic weekend tabletop gaming schedules and so we went ahead and booked some tickets. And I definitely don't regret having watched this play. Despite high expectations given their claim of being able to recreate or at least pay homage to the dance mastery of Bob Fosse, we came out of this production smiling.

Sweet Charity is a 1966 musical with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The story was based on the screenplay for Nights of Cabiria by Frederico Fellini. The play had also been adapted into a movie in 1969 that had been directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse. This particular run by 9 Works Theatrical runs from August 5 - 27, 2011 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City.

In the play, Charity Hope Valentine (Nikki Gil) is a dance hall hostess / dancer at the Fandango Ballroom. After her latest boyfriend / fiance Charlie steals her purse and pushes her into the lake, Charity struggles to come to terms with her relationship hardships. Her friends at the club, including Nickie (Shiela Valederrama-Martinez), Helene (Ciara Sotto) and Carmen (Sheree). But before she can fully figure out things, their manager Herman (Miguel Faustmann) calls them to work.

Later that night she happens to encounter famous movie star Victorio Vidal (OJ Mariano) outside the Pompeii Club. After a bit of an argument with his companion Ursula (Angela Padilla), he ends up taking Charity as his escort for the night as he returns to the club, as Ursula stamps off in a jealous rage. Victorio is amused by Charity's antics and insights on life while she remains the statstruck fan.

What happens that night with Victorio and whether or not Charity finally finds love for herself despite her dance hall life is the subject of the rest of the production. I'd love to reveal more, but then that would be spoiling too much I suppose. You're better off just enjoying things as they progress. It's a pretty fun ride after all.

Sweet Charity - CastWithout a doubt, Nikki Gil truly carries the entire show and does so very, very well. She's quite a performer whether in terms of her singing, dancing or her acting. And given the nature of this particular production, she really had to bring together all three elements to pull off the spectacular performance that she did. In fact, it's hard to appreciate the other characters as much since she stands out that much. The level of energy and dedication that she brings to her role is spectacular and she alone makes the play more than worth watching.

The rest of the players were good in their own right, to be fair. The trio of Nickie, Helene and Carmen certainly grew on me as the show progressed despite the last two needing to put on some really bad accents for their roles. And of course I already have a lot of respect for Miguel Faustmann given his work with Repertory Philippines. The whole cast was very powerful vocally, that's for sure. And this already ignores the silly moments of how characters with accents don't always sing with accents. Kris Lawrence, who plays Oscar Lindquist, also did a pretty good job although I felt his role didn't really provide him many opportunities to really show off his vocal chops. If anything, he did a good job of trying to convey the emotional roller coaster of his particular character, including wordlessly expressing his feelings towards the end.

Now the big question I had upon watching the show is whether or not they could manage the Bob Fosse style of dance numbers that a lot of the press releases had committed to. While I don't think this was a perfect homage to Bob Fosse's work, it's clear that the company put a lot of work into trying. If anything, this play really drove home the point how difficult it is to manage that kind of discipline and artistry that Fosse did. Thus my expectations were tempered a bit when I saw them actually performing. In general, the girls were a lot better than the boys, but that may have been due to a bit of self-conscious thinking here and there or things like that.

That also begs the question of how such plays should be cast. Clearly the kind of dedication needed in a Fosse-style production requires very experience dancers to drive the big dance routines. But of course there's the need to balance them out with folks who can sing and who can act well enough to fulfill the other obligations of the roles. And thus the true pickle - how do you balance all three aspects in casting in order to do justice to all parts? I felt the play was a little weak in the dancing department, but if anything they made the most of what they had.

On the whole, the play was certainly enjoyable and it made for a lovely afternoon together with my partner. I just feel bad that the theater was largely empty at the time we watched - a sign that the show-sellers didn't do quite enough to market the play enough. Perhaps this blog review will help things along.

Sweet Charity is a fun musical romp with a true theater star at its heart. In this regard I heartily give this play 4 crazy elevator moments out of a possible 5.

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  1. Yey! You saw this show!

    Many of the cast here is from the Repertory too...

  2. Yes we did! And I noticed the many familiar Repertory and even Atlantis faces amongst the cast, hehe.