Writers’ Theatre: “Sweet Charity”

“Did you ever have one of those days?”

Yes, Charity—everyone has. And that’s why “Sweet Charity” is so instantly engaging for the audience.  Who can’t relate to having such bad luck, it’s as if the world is conspiring to bring you down, only to have to dig deep and find the resolve to smile through it all?

Maybe it’s just me.

Either way, you shouldn’t miss Writers’ Theatre production of the Neil Simon musical, which originated on Broadway in 1966. Interesting that a production more than 40 years old is hardly showing its age—Artistic Director Michael Halberstam does a fantastic job with the book. Equally impressive is Musical Director Doug Peck’s transformation of the score for a live jazz combo. The musicians really deserve equal billing with the cast.

And a great cast, indeed. Tiffany Topol (pictured) does the majority of the vocal work in the lead as Charity Valentine, a dance hall hostess with a heart of gold. Despite a string of romantic setbacks, she’s determined to face each day with fresh hope for another chance at love.

The talent that surrounds and supports Topol is remarkable—her dance hall friends Ericka Mac, Karen Burthwright, Katie Spelman and Emily Ariel Rogers are spot on with dialogue, voice and choreography. Jeff Parker plays an inspiring Vittorio, Charity’s movie star crush—so kind and charming in a highly amusing scene with Rogers taking a turn as Vittorio’s spurned girlfriend Ursula. And Jarrod Zimmerman (also pictured) amps up the neuroses as Charity’s almost-made-it-to-the-altar boyfriend Oscar. He’s got the panic attack down, along with his pants.

Ensemble members James Earl Jones II, Adam Estes, Travis Porchia and Liam Quealy round out the cast, all playing multiple roles with aplomb. Just great work, all around. The only awkwardness for me was that with musicals, you tend to expect someone to really belt one out—yet in such an intimate environment, you run the risk of feeling as if you are being yelled at. So it makes sense, even if it feels a bit strange, to take it down a notch.

If you’re looking for some cultural inspiration, you’ll find it in Glencoe for another month—don’t miss it.

 

“Sweet Charity” plays through March 31 at Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe. Tickets are available online at or by calling 847-242-6000.