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Sweet Charity

As unlikely as it seems, it was Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria that inspired choreographer Bob Fosse to gather the team of playwright Neil Simon, composer Cy Coleman, and lyricist Dorothy Fields and create Sweet Charity. After cleaning up the story line to cater to America's puritanical pretenses, and adding some catchy tunes and stylish dance numbers, the musical had a successful run on Broadway.

Alicia Dunfee as Nicki, Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Charity, and Lea L. Chapman as Helene
Alicia Dunfee as Nicki,
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Charity,
and Lea L. Chapman as Helene
The show marks the beginning of Fosse's most creative period, as evidenced by the Act I number, "Big Spender," where Fosse employed rhythmic dialogue and stop action; and in "Rich Man's Frug" where he created visual dissonance by breaking the convention in which every dancer does the same step.

What Boulder's Dinner Theatre's production numbers lacks in scale relative to Broadway, they make up for in experience and enthusiasm. Neal Dunfee's slick arrangements, performed to a tee by the talented seven-piece jazz band, provide sophisticated undertones for this deceptively charming chestnut.

Alicia Dunfee as Nicki, Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Charity, and Lea L. Chapman as Helene
Alicia Dunfee as Nicki,
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Charity,
and Lea L. Chapman as Helene
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette, as Charity Hope Valentine, sets a brisk, exuberant pace for the show, never flagging in her enthusiasm for the moment, making us believe—as she does—that despite whatever adversity we face today, tomorrow all our dreams may come true. Brousseau-Beyette's soprano rings true—she's got the pipes to reach the back row of any hall—and she hoofs it with the panache of a born dancer.

Wayne Kennedy as Oscar and Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Charity
Wayne Kennedy as Oscar and
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Charity
If all the first act glitz of the dance hall girlies and Vittorio Vidal weren't fun enough, Wayne Kennedy's claustrophobic elevator scene, as Oscar, leaves everyone clucking throughout the intermission. Kennedy is a master at tugging at our heartstrings, and once again he is so convincing, we never see Oscar's betrayal coming.

As always, the craft work at BDT is exemplary: Linda Morken's costumes—from the dazzling velvets, silks, and sequins that drape the "dance hall hostesses" to the psychedelic dashikis that punctuate the Rhythm of Life Church—are a wonder; Amy Campion's chrome staircases and sleek bandstand bring home the feeling of the Fandango Ballroom; Nicholas Kargel's lighting—the stroboscopic film shuttering, sultry shading of the goods for hire, and the spectrum in-between—hits the spot; and Alicia Dunfee's choreography and direction finds the right balance between the classic take and contemporary sensibilities, placing emphasis where it matters most.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's production of Sweet Charity runs through October 28th, 2006. 303-449-6000 or www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com for reservations.

 

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