Article Submitted By Roy Harris
Excitement is building for “Sweet Charity,” Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s latest show, as rehearsals draw an excited cast closer toward its April 26 and 27 opening nights.
Rylan Vachon as the character Big Daddy leads a “prayer meeting” in a Hingham Civic Music Theater rehearsal for “Sweet Charity.”
Behind the closed doors of Town Hall’s Sanborn Auditorium, where “Sweet Charity” will be presented, a talented group of singers and dancers work on perfecting numbers like “Hey Big Spender,” “If They Could See Me Now” and “The Rhythm of Life.” Jazz great Cy Coleman and lyricist Dorothy Fields wrote the music for the original 1960s Broadway hit, with choreography by Bob Fosse. Fosse later directed the movie version, starring Shirley MacLaine.
Hingham’s production is choreographed by Samantha Brior-Jones, who delighted audiences with her dance arrangements for HCMT’s “Cabaret” last spring. Sandee Brayton is music director, as she was for Hingham’s fall production of “Annie” and 2018’s “Oklahoma!”
Stepping through their “Sweet Charity” dance paces are (l to r) Mike Bezzaro, Mike Warner and Rylan Vachon.
Norwell’s Emilee Leahy plays Charity Hope Valentine, the title character in this show—which has themes aimed at a more adult audience than “Annie’s.” The book of “Sweet Charity,” by Neil Simon, tells the story of a dance-hall hostess as she tries, often in vain, to find love in the big city. Along the way she develops any number of “odd couple” relationships of the type for which Simon is famous.
Emilee Leahy, the title character in “Sweet Charity,” being coached by the show’s Director Nathan Fogg during rehearsal for the production.
Emilee is delighted with the role of Charity—something that’s obvious to anyone watching her dance and sing through rehearsals. Among her favorite numbers, “If They Could See Me Now,” lets her tap-dance with a hat and cane. “I grew up tapping,” she says with a laugh. “And I loved the Rockettes,” she adds, noting that she went to college at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and lived in the city for several years afterwards.
This is the first production for Hingham Civic for the mother of two, although she has played lead roles for other community theaters across the South Shore. The Hingham acting community, she says, “has been incredibly welcoming, positive and supportive.” She has several leading men in this show, including Scituate’s Rob Buckel-Gillis as Vittorio Vidal, Brockton’s Tony Light as Oscar, and Boston’s Rylan Vachon as Big Daddy.
Fogg, who also directed “Annie,” “Cabaret” and “Oklahoma!” for HCMT, has worked to update the relationship themes and emphasize more of Neil Simon’s humor in a musical Fogg feels is too rarely performed. Costume designer Kathryn Ridder also is having a ball coming up with slinky dresses for the dance-hall girls, and appropriate clothing for men who join them in the “Rich Man’s Frug” dance number.
Music director Sandee Brayton leads in rehearsing “I’m a Brass Band,” a song from “Sweet Charity.”
Also in the cast are Bridgewater’s Kristen Annese and Carver’s Lindsy Warwick, as Nickie and Helene, respectively. Ensemble members include Jess Phaneuf, Mary Donahue, Tanya Capawana, Emily Hollstein, Leah Shiels, Elise Thomas and Anne Martland, along with William Oliver, Mike Warner, Brian Jipson, Danny Hannafin, Bruno Barbuto, John Crampton, Bill Labelle, Richard Livingston and Mike Bezzaro.
“Sweet Charity” dance-hall hostesses rehearsing a scene at Town Hall’s Sanborn Auditorium are (l to r) Jess Phaneuf, Tanya Capawana, Leah Shiels, Lindsy Warwick and Elise Thomas.
Opening shows on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, start at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall’s Sanborn Auditorium, 210 Central St. Performances the second weekend are at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5. Tickets are $25 each for adults, and $20 for seniors and teens. For prepaid groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18 each. Online, tickets are available at https://hcmtcharity.bpt.me, or by email at [email protected]. More information is available by calling Julie Ryan at 781-749-3400.
Roy Harris, of Hingham, has acted in numerous Hingham Civic shows since 2003.