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July 11, 2013

On Stage: Dazzling dance highlights ‘Sweet Charity’

NEW CASTLE — Great Broadway shows always have been told through three important elements: story, song and dance.

Yet, many of Broadway’s most notable shows often have left one of those elements as an afterthought. Great story is sacrificed for excellent songs, or great music is left out for a compelling story.

Usually, though, it is creative and unique dance that is left wanting in the shadow of  memorable story and song.

 Such is not the case with Bob Fosse’s “Sweet Charity.” It is one of those rare musicals that combines a strong story with great music and dance, and changed forever the way Broadway dance would be viewed.  

“Sweet Charity,” directed by Michael Cavalier, takes to the New Castle Playhouse Augustine Auditorium main stage tomorrow for a three-week run.

“Sweet Charity’ is the bittersweet and humorous story of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess who falls in love too easily. The show presents Charity’s naive, sweet and trusting personality as seen through the eyes of her co-workers.

The score is filled with energetic songs like “Big Spender” and the well-known “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”

Julia Garda plays the lead role of Charity, as well as choreographing the dance-heavy show. She said that while dance is integral to the show’s development, “This is not a dance review. This is a comedy with characters with heart. Dance advances the plot and ties in very well, but dance is the icing on the cake.”

For almost the entire cast, this is the first encounter with the unique dance stylings of Bob Fosse. This made teaching these complex dances somewhat of a challenge for Garda.

“Fosse is all the opposite of classical dance and ballet we all learned as dancers,” Garda explained. “He trademarked himself by doing all the things that were technically wrong at the time, but now are so beautiful.”

Assistant choreographer and dance ensemble member Emily Perott agrees. She points to one particular musical dance number, “Rich Man’s Frug,” as an example.

“ ‘The Frug’ is one of Fosse’s greatest accomplishments,” she said. “It is full of small, intricate moments and great angular movements. The first section is very aloof. It represents the upper class, snobs.

“The second section is much more playful. It is a battle of the sexes, a fake fight in which we all become ‘Rock-em Sock-em Robots.’ It is full of movements that are not commonly used. It is very special. You will see why every dancer dreams of being part of a Fosse show.”

Luke Watterson is an ensemble member and lead male dancer for the show. Among his many credits, he spent a season with The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in Nashville. He points out that the show was written for a dancer, but it is an unexpected story.

“This show feels like Broadway,” he said.  “From the lights and set, from the moment you walk in, the songs, the choreography, everything. We have fantastic leads.

“Julia does a great job of capturing the leading ladies of the past who have played the role. There is a young energetic chorus, great dancers and big numbers. They have done an excellent job of creating Broadway. This show is way better than you would ever expect.”

If you’re going ...

The New Castle Playhouse will present “Sweet Charity” on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and July 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28. Friday and Saturday performances are 7:30 p.m., Sunday shows are 2 p.m. For tickets, call (724) 654-3437



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