As if I hadn’t seen enough excellence from The Woodlands High School during the triumph over the Klein Bearkats at the football game the night before, the following day I had the opportunity to view the school’s outstanding fall production of Neil Simon’s adorable musical comedy, “Sweet Charity.” With the charming lyrics of Dorothy Fields and the lovely music of Cy Coleman, this show was a real winner in the capable hands of the W.H.S. Theatre Department and Director, Carlen Gilseth.
Billed as “…the story of a girl who wanted to be loved,” the show stars Megan Kane as Charity, a New York City dance hall girl with a generous heart and endless optimism, but little luck in love. With her fine singing voice and this plucky characterization, Kane nicely captures Charity’s optimistic search for romance.
Then the show really catches fire with the steamy “Big Spender” number from the sexy Fandango Girls. When I was in high school you had to sneak a Playboy magazine to see anything like this! Musical Director, Jennifer Franz, showed a rare gift for not only producing a fabulous choral ensemble, but also for guiding the fine orchestra to a performance that enriched, but never overwhelmed, the singers. Complementing the musical excellence were the superb choreography of Connie Sue Godwin and the classy, multi-colored costumes of designer, Kayla Ritter and her talented crew. Even the make-up designs of Lori Brown and Hair designs of Lauren Roberts kept the production on a high plain, as did the lighting of Mallory Ryan and the sound work of Phillip Marek. And everything was played out on creative set designs from Cody Sorensen that included hidden closets, working elevator, and even the Parachute Drop ride at Coney Island!
As movie star, Vittorio Vidal, Ross Bautsch does a fine Italian accent and looks like he just popped off the cover of Gentleman’s Quarterly. Sarah Starke gives him a romantic run for his money as the temperamental starlet, Ursula March. When they quarrel, Charity gets to spend the evening with Vittorio at the elegant Pompeii Club. The jazzy black and white sophistication of the knockout nightclub show featured first class singing and dancing that would equal a professional production. It was clear that many of the performers brought rich experience from local dance companies and theater groups such as Class Act Productions. The sharp frozen cast tableaus during Vittorio’s lament were dramatic and effective.
“If My Friends Could See Me Now” was another strong number from Kane, but I would have softened the perkiness just enough to accent Charity’s sensitive side and put greater focus on Miss Kane’s vocal talent. Longing for a better life than the dance hall, Charity joins fellow hoofers, Nickie (Danielle Odom) and Helene (Lindsay Gunther) for the energetic, “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.” And something better does come along for Charity when she meets the likeable Oscar, pleasantly played by Cam Bautsch. Trapping them in mid-air, in both parachutes and an elevator, took some pretty fancy staging. And the parachute scene featured a dazzling ensemble dance routine that was cleverly staged in silhouette lighting.
Act II was luminous with its riotous beatnik church number, “Rhythm of Life.” The musical counterpoints were elegantly echoed in creative counterpoints of dance. Hair garlands, beads, headbands, face painting, afro hairdos, and even skateboards added to the frenzied look of a hippie religious service. Pastor Daddy Brubeck (Ted Summers-Minette) was a howl leading the ensemble congregation during this song and dance showstopper. With a tough Brooklyn accent, Nickie joins Helene for a sweet duet of “Baby Dream Your Dream.” Oscar sweetly delivers the title tune, and Charity quickly falls in love with him. Before the show ends the cast lights up the stage with great tap dancing and one more bright light appears in the person of dance hall owner, Herman (Ian Ramirez). His lead vocal in the polka-paced “I Love to Cry at Weddings” number was exceptional. But then again, so was the whole show.
(The Villager 10.23.03)
(The Courier (10.26.03)