Front Row Center – April 2019

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Sweet Charity

Directed by Barbara Clippinger


front row

This classic musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning for Choreography. Subsequently, a memorable movie, starring Shirley MacLaine, was released in 1969. Bob Fosse directed and 

Barbara Clippinger does a wonderful job bringing this very entertaining musical to our little town in Mexico. There’s a lot of fun and energy, and the cast all have a good time performing to an appreciative

 audience. Barbara is ably assisted by Patteye Simpson (Music Direction) and a Choreography team of Alexis Hoff, Val Jones, Cortlandt Jones and Barbara herself. Kristine Moily returns to the LLT stage achoreographed both the original production and the movie.

s “Charity” and is naturally naïve and charming. I remember her about 10 years ago as the young wife in The Mousetrap. Welcome back, Kristine!

There are many excellent performances in this show, and some very funny cameo scenes. At the Fandango Dance Hall, the hostess ensemble get the show off to a rousing start with Hey, Big Spender – what a great New York tune! It’s hard to pick stars, so I congratulate them all: Leigh Christiansen, Pamela Johnson, Patteye Simpson, Heather Hunter, Ann Elizabeth Grab, Patricia Reason, Maritza Freyslinger, Val Jones, Allyson deJong, Kate Hartup and Ninine Testa. Also Leigh Christiansen and Patteye Simpson sing a sweet number Baby, Dream Your Dream in the second Act.

Peter Luciano plays the dance hall boss “Herman” who is constantly shouting at the girls to get back to work. However, we find out later that he is really soft-hearted with I Love to Cry at Weddings. Douglas Voet is a natural as heartthrob “Vittorio Vidal” while Florette Schnelle has a great time hamming it up as “Ursula” his beautiful girlfriend. Then there’s Cortlandt Jones as the swinging pastor at the Rhythm of Life Church. And I mustn’t forget “Oscar” the claustrophobic actuary played by newcomer Barry Michael Neal. The scene where he and Charity are stuck in the elevator at the YMCA is hilarious.

There was one problem, which was that many of the words in the songs were not audible. Maybe the stage microphones were not working on the evening I attended. So we got the music but not the words. I enjoyed the show anyway. Charity Hope Valentine keeps being disappointed in her love life, and always bounces back up. As she says, it’s the fickle finger of fate. It’s a bittersweet message, but the show is so outrageous and funny that we can’t feel sad about it.

I thank Barbara Clippinger and a terrific cast led by Kristine Moily, and everyone who worked on the show, for a very professional performance. Sandy Topazio was Stage Manager, which was a challenge for a show with such a huge cast – it must have been very crowded backstage! However, it all ran smoothly without a hitch. Michael McGrath was Producer and Jeff Kingsbury was Assistant Stage Manager.

So ends Season 54, and Barbara Clippinger’s 24th show as director and/or choreographer. Was this her last show? Say it ain’t so, Barbara!

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