Wright State Theatre presents the swingin’ 1966 dance musical, Sweet Charity, March 18-April 3rd in Wright State University’s Festival Playhouse. This reimagined production brings audiences into the last stages of rehearsal for a 1960s theatre company doing their final run-through of Sweet Charity. Directed by Associate Professor Marya Spring Cordes (Wright State’s The Wolves, Curious Incident…), Music Directed by Instructor F. Wade Russo, choreographed by guest artist Brandon Kelly, with Scenic/Costume design by Instructor Zoe Still, and Lighting Design by Professor Matthew Benjamin, Sweet Charity offers audiences a rare look at one of the great musicals of that era in a fresh new production.
Guest Choreographer Brandon Kelly is an accomplished alumnus of Wright State’s BFA Dance program. Area audiences may remember him from numerous WSU Dance Concerts, Festival Playhouse productions of West Side Story and Raisin In The Sun, and for his choreography of our production of Rent. He is now Assistant Choreographer for Broadway’s Come From Away and has created works for numerous national dance companies, themed entertainment and regional theatre productions. Throughout this process, Kelly has travelled back and forth to Wright State University in between rehearsing actors to join the Broadway and touring productions of Come From Away during the recent surge in COVID illnesses all Broadway and touring shows have experienced. About working on this legendary dance musical, Kelly says, “It’s fantastic and terrifying at the same time, because it’s so iconic and so many of the numbers have a huge legacy. There’s a balance I want to find between being true to the characters and to the story and paying homage to the idea of the original production. I know audiences can’t help but want to see certain shapes, certain feelings, certain visuals. I want to do that while still maintaining my choreographic voice and our vision for the production.”
Instead of a traditional orchestra, Music Director F. Wade Russo has created special orchestral and vocal arrangements to help the show feel as if it’s played by a Jazz combo with four vocalists providing accompaniment in a style reminiscent of iconic artists like Lambert, Hendrix and Ross, The Manhattan Transfer or the Swingle Singers. Russo says, “SWEET CHARITY captures the sounds and rhythms of Greenwich Village jazz clubs of the early 1960s. I wanted to create a vocal quartet to enhance the jazz combo sound of the score using close harmony and back-up singing to give dramatic richness to this production.”
Director Marya Spring Cordes has reimagined Sweet Charity to encourage audiences to focus on the story, characters, music and dance in ways most other productions don’t. She says, “It surrounds a character who goes through life on gut instinct. Sometimes her choices pan out, a lot of times they don’t. But her name says it all – Charity Hope Valentine. The play is about how we transcend difficulty in our life, have resilience, persevere, and believe that some good will come of our lives if we keep putting energy in a positive direction.”
Senior Musical Theatre major, Tassy Kirbas, steps into the iconic dance shoes of protagonist, Charity Hope Valentine, an eternal optimist in a hard-luck world. Tassy says, “My favorite element of our production of Sweet Charity is the amount of collaboration, experimentation, gentleness and openness in the rehearsal space while we develop a new version of such an iconic musical that is completely unique to Wright State University. I am feeling warm, full and happy with our Sweet Charity and I can’t wait to share my passion with live audiences!” Audiences will remember Kirbas from her earlier productions at Wright State, including The Addams Family, Theory of Relativity, Mamma Mia! and many student productions.
For tickets, go to www.wright.edu/tdmp or call the Theatre Box Office at (937) 775-2500