The 35th Anniversary of productions at North County’s Welk Resort Theatre currently features a high energy, colorful musical comedy, “Sweet Charity”. The original production featured music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon. This Bob Fosse dance musical presents a fun and enjoyable story of a girl searching for love, in all the wrong places, but never giving up trying to find true love. The musical is based on a Federico Fellini screen play, “Nights of Cabiria”, with some minor changes in the story line. The female lead in the Welk production, is a Welk veteran, Natalie Nucci, who is prefect as the 1960’s Times Square dance hall dancer-for-hire, Charity. Her stage presence, comic timing along with a wonderful voice and dance combination has you believing she is indeed a romantically lost, youngish New Yorker who just needs a break. She showcased her musical range in songs like “If My Friends Could See me Now” and “Where Am I Going”.
“Sweet Charity” premiered on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on June 29, 1966, and was nominated for 9 Tony Awards, winning Best Choreography and in 1986 won the Tony for Best Revival. The musical was adapted for the screen in 1969 with Shirley MacLaine as Charity and Bob Fosse directing and choreographing the film.
The Welk production is directed by Ray Limon and produced by Joshua Carr. Mr. Limon has directed Welk productions for over 25 years, most recently “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He was nominated for the San Diego Critics Circle Award for Best Choreography for the Welk productions of “Cabaret” and “Hello Dolly”. The small orchestra, under the direction of Justin Gray, Mike Masessa on drums, Elizabeth Howard on trumpet and Adrienne Nims and Mark Margolies on reeds, gave the audience a feeling that a much larger orchestra was presenting the accompanying music for the song and dance routines. Quick set changes and use of scaffolding in the back for scenes like inside the dance hall and on the subway made the musical flow smoothly from scene to scene. Set designs by Brian Redfern, effective lighting by Jennifer Edwards and colorful costumes by Janet Pitcher added to this fun musical. Two large video screens on each side of the stage gave colorful leads to the various chapters of the story we were seeing on the stage and help set the tone for the coming scene.
A mostly veteran cast surrounded lead Natalie Nucci, who is a former San Diego Critics Circle nominee for “West Side Story” at the San Diego Musical Theatre. Three of the “lovers” Charity falls for are played by John Paul Batista as Charlie, Gerardo Flores as Vittorio Vidal and Daniel Newheiser as Oscar. Gerardo Flores is making his debut at Welk and was very funny as Italian film star Vittorio Vidal. He and Ms. Nucci were very funny in a hotel room scene as Charity thinks she has found a man who befriends her for who she is. Mr. Newhheiser, as the nervous, timid Oscar has an outstanding performance in the “trapped in an elevator” scene with Ms. Nucci. The dance hall girls had a number of song and dance scenes with Charity that were filled with great energy and clever dance routines. The girls included Adrian Mustain as Nickie, Justin High as Helene, Carly Cannata as Ursula, Renee Rand as Suzanne, Andrea Williams as Elaine, Jenny Henkel as Betsy and Dannielle Green as Carmen. Adrian Mustain as Nickie and Justin High as Helene, two of the dance hall girls, also had several duets and songs with Charity in numbers like “Big Spender”, “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” and “Baby Dream Your Dream”. One extremely clever, abstract dance routine was performed in the Club Pompeii as the male dancers joined in with the female cast members in a most unusual dance routine. The male members of the ensemble included Dante Macatantan, John Paul Batista, Ryan Schultze, Fisher Kaake, and Nicholas Alexander. This number, along with a scene reminiscent of something from “Hair”, the under the bridge church routine to “Rhythm of Life”, as well as a drumstick routine in band costumes, added to dance routines that don’t follow the norm of musical theatre. This musical also allowed two Welk veterans, Nicholas Alexander and Ryan Deitrich, to showcase their great soprano range several times, such as the song “I Love to Cry at Weddings”. Ryan also played Herman the dance hall manager.
“Sweet Charity” is not the happiest of musicals as far as the ending, but don’t feel sorry for Charity, as at the final curtain we see “She Lived Hopefully Ever After”. It is the story of someone who just won’t give up, and remains ever optimistic as her life continues to change. A great message for us all. “Sweet Charity” continues to play at the Welk Resort until November 20. Tickets can be purchased at www.welkresorts.com or call 1-888-802-7469. This is a fun, amusing, energetic musical with great dance numbers, entertaining songs and a talented cast. It is well worth the short drive up Highway 15, just north of Escondido, to take in another great production at The Welk Resort.