By Mark A. Leon
In 2013 Kirk and Scott Pfeiffer moved to Charleston with the goal of providing “excellent education in musical theatre, and to ensure theatre arts remain prominent and accessible within the community.” Today, this small community theatre cuddled nicely on Folly Road is actively celebrating its fourth season and what an inaugural season achievement with their flamboyantly fun and musically triumphant production of “Sweet Charity”
Originally conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse based on the book by Neil Simon, the Charleston Performing Arts Center captures the quirky nuances and rich colors of 1960’s New York City so beautifully. The intimate cabaret style theater puts the audience in the heart of the action. With rich explosive numbers including “Big Spender” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now” the crowd is swept away into the free-spirited life of New York City in the 1960’s.
Right away, you cannot help but fall in love with Charity Hope Valentine played superbly by Johanna Lacy. From the open scene where she is dumped through her journey to find love, you are drawn in with her quirky mannerisms, tremendous vocal range and optimistic pursuit of love. Her performance is nothing short of a pure delight. Taking on a stage presence filled with beauty in the wake of uncertainty in a city that has lost its innocence, Johanna tackles this role with style and grace. Throughout the performance, you want nothing more than to have this down on her luck heroine find true love.
This small stage musical at times resembled a massive production due in large part to the vibrant costume design and supporting cast of singers and dancers. From the taps to the dips, the choreographed numbers kept your smiling all evening long.
Yovel Aviv and Jackie Kirchhoff play Nickie and Helene, Charity’s confidants and co-workers who have given up the glimmer in their eyes, but secretly cheer on Charity as she walks through the maze of life finding true love. In their own saucy way, they continue to keep her grounded. Yovel’s sassy New York accent and pint-sized powerhouse attitude as Nicki is lovable and sincere. Jackie’s rich voice and charm compliment well during her duo’s and ensemble numbers.
Khawon Porter as Herman, the cross-dressing owner of the dance hall, brings an explosive voice and dominant presence to every scene including an uncharacteristic rendition of “I Love To Cry at Weddings” at the conclusion of Act II. His tough exterior, but lovable hidden side make for an unlikely father figure for Charity.
The performance would not have been complete without strong contributions from Dillon Smith (Oscar) and Joseph Baldino (Vittoro Vidal) who play two very different male figures who both have a vital impact on Charity’s life.
Love comes and goes and sometimes you lock in on your destiny and other times, you bow in defeat and keep looking. Life is about finding balance between the inner and outer beauty, securing those that you truly connect with and having fun. “Sweet Charity” truly encompasses those values with a beautiful rainbow of costumes, a talented cast, toe tapping music and dance and an overall great time at the theatre.