The small screen does not quite showcase the talent of Milena Govich as does this summer’s Lyric Theatre production of “Sweet Charity” directed by Ashley Wells. Wells, Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director does a super job of spearheading Choreographer Randy Slovacek and Musical Director David Andrews Rogers as they create a seamless production in a very slightly seamy story with an exceptional and seasoned cast.
This summer’s Lyric Season fills the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall and is a tribute to Chita Rivera with some of her most delightful roles. Miss Rivera will also be performing in the same location August 7 through August 11, 2012 in “My Broadway” with a selection from her most celebrated roles in song backed by a full orchestra. In the meantime, enjoy Kathryn Mowat Murphy as Nickie, the role Rivera established in the movie “Sweet Charity” with Shirley MacLaine.
The book, “Sweet Charity” by Neil Simon is based on the original screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano. While comparing movies with the play can be dangerous, but it is only fair to say that while Murphy’s Nickie is certainly different from Rivera’s the Lyric performance is certainly equal. And the same can be said for Govich and MacLaine; different, yet equal in power and talent.
“Sweet Charity” tells the poignant yet hopeful story of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess with the aspirations of simple housewife and the dream of a loving husband. She makes poor choices but cannot help giving her heart away. She gives her heart to Charlie, Vittorio Vidal and Oscar Lindquist, and each character is a slight improvement over the previous. And all these true examples of masculine insecurities are created by Jamison Stern. Each man is different in movement, appearance and voice, yet Stern is consistent in a performance that is a delightful complement to Govich.
In addition Murphy as fellow dance hall hostess Nickie, Vanita Harbour portrays Helene. These two ‘dancers’ are Charity’s best friends and fellow fantasizers. Harbour’s portrayal is just as professional and polished as her fellow Actor’s Equity Association members. Another AEA member, Billy Porter is hysterical as Daddy Brubeck, a jazz musician turned preacher.
Stephen Hilton is Herman, the proprietor of Fandango where the dancer’s work. His performance is strong. Ursula March, the starlet girlfriend of Vittorio Vidal is played by Jennifer Teel. Her performance is humorous and real. Her delightful scenes with Stern’s Vidal and witnessed by Charity are timed perfectly for chuckles and titters.
Hannah Meredith Killebrew as Carmen, Audra Bryant as Elaine, Lauren Johnson as Suzanne, Natasha Scearse as Frenchy and Alie Walsh as Rosie round out the cast of dancers. A cast of great legs, high kicks and high jinx, these gals make the most of Slovacek’s choreographic talent. The Ensemble cast is a delightful mix of talent and adrenaline.
The 7:30pm show time for Lyric’s Summer Season is through Thursday while Friday and Saturday the curtain rises and 8:00pm and 2:00pm Saturday matinee. Finding a parking lot amid the construction downtown is easy with numerous lots available for the Civic Center Music Hall at 201 North Walker Avenue. For information on Lyric shows at the Civic Center or the Plaza call 405-524-9312. The Civic Center is pleasantly air conditioned so “Sweet Charity” is an entertaining and cool summer activity this weekend.