Stage North presents Bob Fosse's ‘Sweet Charity’
The production will run production April 13-16 at the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.
BRAINERD — The Stage North Theatre Company, partnering with Hunt Utilities Group, announced its production of “Sweet Charity” April 13-16 at the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.
This colorful, groovy, very ‘60s musical comedy premiered on Broadway in 1966 — conceived, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse as a vehicle for Gwen Verdon, his third wife and longtime muse. Neil Simon, the Broadway comedy genius, wrote the book. With music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, “Sweet Charity” contains the popular show tunes “Hey Big Spender,” “The Rhythm of Life,” and “If my Friends could See me Now.” It was adapted for the screen in 1969 with Shirley MacClaine as Charity.
Charity Hope Valentine, a naive, slightly tarnished young woman, tries to look on the bright side of life, despite working in the rundown Fandango Ballroom and contending with a seemingly endless run of bad dates. Determined to find love, Charity falls for suave actor Vittorio Vidal but their romance is all too brief thanks to his self centered girlfriend, Ursula. However, when Charity finds herself stuck in an elevator with the claustrophobic Oscar Lindquist it turns out that love may not be too far behind. Set in the 1960s, Sweet Charity takes you back to the era of bell bottoms, flower children and a time when love was simple and naive.
"Sweet Charity" was nominated for nine Tony awards, winning for best choreography. A movie version was released in 1969 and Broadway revivals occurred in 1986, 2005 and 2016. In 2016, the Broadway revival of "Sweet Charity" won four Tony awards including best revival. A Broadway critic described Sweet Charity as, "terribly nostalgic and charming in all of its hippy and artful glory." "Sweet Charity" is known for its stunning choreography by the one-and-only Fosse. Stage North choreographer Wendy DeGeest has managed to capture the essence of Fosse's legendary jazz style while adding her own creative twist to the dance numbers. "The Rich Man's Frug" and "Big Spender" will feature his classic hip rolls, finger snaps and specific quirky movements.
The title role of Charity is played by local actress Jana Johnson. Stage North Theatre audiences will remember her as Vera in “Stepping Out,” Maria in “Twelfth Night,” Goldy in “Baby Face” and most recently as Reno, the female lead in the Broadway musical “Anything Goes.” Jana has also appeared in shows at Brainerd Community Theatre and Pequot Lakes Community Theatre. “The role of Charity hits close to my heart as I identify with the hopefully romantic naivete of unsuccessfully looking for love in all the wrong places,” Johnson said in a news release for the production
Johnson said her favorite song from the show is “If My Friends Could See Me Now” as she remembers it from seeing “Sweet Charity” in Minneapolis as a child in the early 1980s. Her future high school English teacher played the role of Oscar in that production. As a result Johnson found it easy to memorize the lyrics. Johnson, like Charity, approaches life “hopefully ever after.”
Baird Brutscher, who recently moved back to the area, plays Charity’s love interest Oscar Lindquist. He’s been fortunate to do dramatic acting here and elsewhere, and the last few years of reduced contact due to COVID-19 prompted him to branch out to voiceover for podcast and audiobook projects.
“My role as Oscar allows me to explore voice work and character singing in a way that I haven’t been able to before,” Brutscher said.
Brutscher was involved in theater at a young age.
“I’m remembering my grandmother, who passed away in December, she was always driving me to rehearsals for ‘Hole in the Day Players’ productions in Little Falls as a kid,” Brutscher said. “I hope all the young people in this production get that kind of encouragement and support.”
The Stage North Theatre production also includes Kim Huether as Helene, Jenna Hanson as Nicki, Alyssa Niestadt as Carmen, Jazzmine Grieser as Rosie, Jaiden McCormick as Suzanne, Grace Guderian as Frenchy, Natalie Topete as Elaine, Erin Caswell as Ursula, M Hollis Ford as Herman, and Ed Eyestone as Daddy Brubeck. The ensemble includes Abraham Benson, Edmund Binda, Emily Binsfeld, Megan Hanson, Vincent Johnson-Ding, Esme Malloy, Maureen Paulus, Mackenzie Renford, Emerald Scearcy and Brady Westholter.
The production is being directed by Gary Hirsch, choreographed by Wendy DeGeest and musically directed by Kennedy Niska. Technical direction for the show is provided by Mark Oehrlein, with sound expertise and design by Jared Foss.
The unique, colorful and intricate set design was created by Tim Leagjeld. The groovy, 1960s period costumes were designed by Wendy DeGeest with assistance from Mark Ford, Kim Huether and Debra Binda.
The production sponsor is Hunt Utilities Group from Pine River. Show sponsors include Ethereal Threads, Northern Lights Realty, Keller Williams Realty and The Ugly Cheesecake Company.
Ultimately, "Sweet Charity" is meant to be a love letter to Charity herself. Near the end of play, love interest Oscar Linquist tells Charity, "The odds against us are at least a hundred to one." Charity Hope Valentine's reply: "Those are the best odds I ever had.” Is "happily ever after" in Charity's future, or is Charity destined to continue her never ending search for love?
“Sweet Charity” runs 7:30 p.m. April 13-15, with a matinee at 2 p.m. April 16. Tickets are available at A Needle Pulling Thread on the main level of the Franklin Arts Center, at B-bay, and online at www.stagenorththeater.com as well as at the door. All tickets are $10. Best enjoyed by ages 12 and up.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.