Sweet Charity at Croswell is a solid end to a great season (review)

Sweet Charity, long absent from the local boards, marks a solid end to a really great season at the Croswell Opera House this summer.  Anchored by Libby Bruno’s superb Charity Valentine in the lead, its an entertaining (if long) musical comedy, with an emphasis on the comedy.


The musical is somewhat unusual in form as it gives as much weight to book scenes in between songs as it does to the music itself. Its a strongly character-driven piece, and those characters are broadly drawn and fun — though it does lead to a long show: the three hour length is the same as that for Les Miserables in the modern theater canon — though it was par for the course in the mid-60’s.

Bruno is a true triple-threat…singing and dancing through the fun and tuneful numbers, but also bringing warmth and heart to her acting scenes (of which there are many) in the Neil Simon script. “If They Could See Me Now” and “I’m a Brass Band” are particular standouts.

The cast is very strong from top to bottom, with strong direction from Erica Wyman and terrific choreography by Stephanie Stephan. “The Rhythm of Life” number is a strong example of that — combining dance steps with character work, its a delight to the eyes and the ears. Brian Rose has done a very good job with musical direction, and conducts the full orchestra — and how fun it is to hear these old 60’s Broadway standards come to life in live performance of this rarely produced musical.

David Blackburn is hilariously entertaining as Oscar, Charity’s maybe boyfriend. Paul Manger turns in three funny performances as three separate characters. The entire ensemble is strong, and they keep the energy flowing through the many ensemble dance numbers. There is unique use of theater space, including a rail that moves up and down as needed from the front of the apron. Michael Lackey’s many many many set pieces move about with a calm pace that never slows the show, while making you ask where all that stuff fits in the tiny wings of the Croswell.

But most of all, this is a showcase for Bruno — and you should see her now.

Sweet Charity continues at the Croswell Opera House through August 24th.


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