By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
One of the tricks, so to speak, in making “Sweet Charity” appeal to an audience is the ability of the lead actress to portray a lady of the evening with a heart bigger than the stage.
Actress Tiffany Jackson as dance-hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine is just the person to open her heart to the audience. Her spunky innocence and perky spirit (and red hair) bring life and hope to the role.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Mainstage Theatre, 124 W. Ninth St., and run this weekend and next.
The character comes from Federico Fellini’s 1957 Oscar-winning film “The Nights of Cabiria,” which starred his actress wife Giulietta Masina as a petite Roman prostitute looking for true romance. In 1966, choreographer Bob Fosse and playwright Neil Simon brought the story to Broadway, where Gwen Verdon (Fosse’s wife at the time) played the lead.
For Mainstage, Jackson captures Charity’s hope for love with wide-eyed purity. The audience roots for her as she tries to escape the gritty Fandango Club, meeting first with a film star (in a funny trapped-in-the-closet scene) and finding love in an elevator with a meek man named Oscar (a believably paranoid Jay Wile).
Gabe Porch as film star Vittorio Vidal is suave and (properly) falsely self-deprecating; the audience almost roots for him, too. By the way, take note of Jackson’s comic flops around a couch trying to send Vidal a message.
Director Roland VanHorn rounds out the cast with some of Mainstage’s finest singers. Jessica Kim-Cookston and Mindy Morton harmonize with compassion on the bittersweet “Baby Dream Your Dream” hoping to leave the dance hall life.
Rick Vale is vibrant and cool as the leader of a hippie congregation at the Rhythm of Life Church. The accompanying dance number, which opens the second act, is alone worth the admission.
And all of the ladies, looking rather enticing in their dance-hall finery, put a lot of punch into “Big Spender.”
It’s those big spenders, however, that Charity longs to leave behind. Her plight doesn’t take great imagination of the audience’s part, but it requires a convincing lead actress and a committed cast. This Mainstage production offers a great lead in Jackson as a sweet Charity and a cast willing to throw itself into every role.
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