Writers’ takes on dance with ‘Sweet Charity’
Tiffany Topol in "Sweet Charity" | Photo by Michael Brosilow
Writers’ Theatre, 376 Park Ave., Glencoe
7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 22-March 31
$35-$70(847) 242-6000; www.writerstheatre.org
Updated: January 16, 2013 11:46AM
Some girls can’t catch a break.
Take the case of Charity Valentine who works as a dance hall hostess while she searches in vain for a man to change her luck. All she gets are losers in “Sweet Charity” by Neil Simon (book), Cy Coleman (music) and Dorothy Fields (lyrics).
Writers’ Theatre’s Artistic Director Michael Halberstam thinks that show is a perfect choice for his company’s first dance musical.
“It has a grand focus in its emotional sweep and its ambition,” said Halberstam. “But it’s a fairly intimate journey in terms of its title character.” It doesn’t require huge dance numbers, he asserted. “Because the piece is focused toward the journey of its title character, I think it allows for a more intimate telling,” Halberstam said.
He has chosen to direct the show because, “It’s one of those pieces that I’ve always had an affinity towards. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s caught in-between so many different worlds that she doesn’t quite know how to inhabit, which I think appeals to the slight sense of alienation that we can all feel in our everyday life — the desire for change,” Halberstam posited.
“And yet, even though we have a strong desire for change and we make all sorts of moves towards change, we often find ourselves circling back to some of the same challenges in our lives.”
Halberstam reflected that what has always struck him about the character of Charity is that, “She is a woman at a point where she feels like she has reached a glass ceiling through which she just cannot seem to break. I think New York plays a motivating factor in driving her forward. New York can be a very hostile environment. So when she and her friends sing, ‘There’s Got to be Something Better Than This,’ they really mean it.”
Charity’s search for a better life is being carried out by Tiffany Topol, who stars as the title character. Topol, who works frequently at the Marriott Theatre, has also performed with Lookingglass Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, among others.
“Charity is a beautiful human,” Topol said. “She is so sweet — hence the title. She is very compassionate and very fragile but also incredibly hopeful. And sometimes that hopefulness turns into naiveté.”
Charity’s popularity is never in doubt, though. “She’s one of those people who can be thrown into any situation, and everybody loves her,” Topol said. “She can talk to anybody and she can adapt to any situation.”
Topol is convinced that because the Writers’ Theatre space is so intimate, this production will be “a little more human. The dancing is still going to be magnificent but it’s going to stem a little bit more from human behavior and a little bit more from character instead of for the sake of spectacle.”
Although she loves singing and dancing, Topol admitted that what she enjoys most “is having a connection with somebody else onstage. I know this is a dancing show but I think it’s also a really great book musical and there’s some really great scenes and I love performing them .”
Musical director Doug Peck is scoring the show for a jazz combo. Halberstam believes that composer Cy Coleman, whose main medium was jazz, “would be thrilled by the idea of a pared down jazz interpretation.”
Halberstam added, “Five musicians in a 108-seat theater is already a significant composition.”
Actor Topol concluded, “It’s going to be a very real, very heartwarming, intimate production.”