Good times with ‘Sweet Charity’

Michael Hatton

Everyday millions struggle through relationships. Whether those relationships are with a boyfriend, a friend, family members, it does not matter because the battle will rage for centuries to come.

What is the point of facing heartbreak, after heartbreak? The answer is because “without love, there is no life.”

At least that is Charity Hope Valentine’s philosophy concerning life. Her obsession with love being “what it is all about” forces her and the audience to go through one bad relationship after another in the 60’s musical Sweet Charity performed by Northern Kentucky University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Sweet Charity is a Bob Fosse musical with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, music by Cy Coleman, and based on a book by Neil Simon who adapted Nights of Cabiria- a 1950’s film by Federico Fellini-into the Tony Award winning show.

The show deals with Charity a struggling dance hostess in New York who has one goal in life, to find a man to marry.

Throughout the play the audience suffers with her, as she is dumped not once, but three times.

The first man, who she claims she loves and who loves her even though he is married, pushes her into a pond and steals her money.

The second is the international movie star Vittorio Vidal who leaves Charity in the closet at the first sign of his mistress’ return. The third is Oscar, a sweet, innocent tax accountant with an obsession for purity.

Which is too bad for Charity taking into account what she does for a living. Maybe she’ll have better luck next time.

In his directing debut production at NKU director Mark Hardy does a fine job of turning a rather dull plot into an up-beat performance. With all the kicking dance sequences, quirky jokes, retro costumes and harmonized songs it is difficult to even think of falling asleep during the musical.

Without Bridget Conforti playing the role of Charity, Sweet Charity would lose its pizzazz. Her stage presence is captivating.

Her voice carries a punch that does not lose its pitch or its Brooklyn accent. Conforti embraced the character of Charity so much so that one actually felt as if this story of a love-forsaken woman was true. Conforti did not do it by herself though.

She had two wonderful supporting actresses in Charity’s two best friends Joanne R. Becker (Helene) and Jennifer Myers (Nickie).

Throughout the performance there was a real connection between the women. In the song “There’s gotta be something better than this” Conforti, Becker and Myers feed off of each other’s pain of the injustice in their lives in powerful harmony.

The rest of the women playing dance hall hostesses added some spice to the musical with the song “Big Spender”. With two dance bars and a couple of chairs the women did a fine job of juxtaposing a certain classy look while at the same time appearing racy.

What would this story be without the leading actors Andrew J. Bernhard (Vittorio Vidal) and John West (Oscar)? Most likely a favorite of feminists but then that would not be Sweet Charity.

Bernhard is a believable charming Italian man nailing the accent and the strut rather nicely. While West’s na