BWW Reviews: Pioneer Theatre Company's SWEET CHARITY is Filled with Life
Pioneer Theatre Company's production of SWEET CHARITY is a zany, zingy concoction filled with life and all that comes with it.
SWEET CHARITY (book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields) was originally conceived, staged, and choreographed on Broadway by the renowned Bob Fosse. Charity Hope Valentine is a dance hall girl looking for more. She wants to find success outside the walls of the seedy club where she works, but most of all she wants to find love. The show recounts all her adventures as she looks for it in some unexpected places. SWEET CHARITY includes more than one song that even those who may be unfamiliar with the show might recognize, but the strength of the piece is its witty, zingy dialogue by Neil Simon.
This musical was tailor-made for the talents of Pioneer Theatre Artistic Director Karen Azenberg, who serves as director and choreographer for this production. Having had personal experiences with Simon, she is uniquely qualified to interpret his work, and it shows. The execution of the dialogue scenes is crisp and gratifying. In addition, her 1960s-infused choreography is quite simply a joy to behold, which is a crucial linchpin for a show as dance-heavy as this. Credit should go to assistant director-choreographer and dance captain Lenny Daniel for his work as well.
The dancing by the experienced ensemble is absolutely top-notch and draws in the audience's undivided attention for the entire duration of largely instrumental numbers such as "Rich Man's Frug" and "I'm a Brass Band."
Nancy Lemenager as Charity is a delight from the opening scene to the last. She has the personality and the acting chops to bring the larger-than-life character to the stage with all the zany humor it requires and all the human pathos it deserves. And she has incredible dancing skills to boot, having perfected every bit of movement thrown her way.
Angie Schworer as Nickie and Utah native Natalie Hill as Helene are shining stars in every scene in which they appear. Their second act duet "Baby, Dream Your Dream" becomes an unexpected showstopper thanks to their superior vocals and characterizations.
Perhaps the most constantly effortlessly enjoyable element of the production is George Maxwell's big, vibrant set, which transports the audience to a 1960s cartoon-like atmosphere in which Charity's adventures play out. Patrick Holt's delightfully retro costumes with a modern twist (along with Amanda French's complementary hair and makeup) complete the animated picture of Charity's endless optimism.
SWEET CHARITY plays through May 24, 2014. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-6961 or visit www.pioneertheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Nancy Lemenager (Charity). Photo by Alexander Weisman.