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Review: Brilliant “Sweet Charity” with stellar cast directed by Stephen Casey


Can a dance hall girl with a heart of gold get a break and fall in love with a middle-class guy?

This American Dream question was asked in “Sweet Charity” back in 1966 when it opened. Based on Federico Fellini’s 1957 film “Nights of Cabiria,” in which the main character was a streetwalker, it was adapted to a musical comedy by Neil Simon.

The music by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields has classic songs, like “Big Spender,” “Rhythm of Life,” and “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.”

This weekend on the news, there are reports about the separation between classes. How there are fewer moments when those who are poor interact with the rest of America. The plight of women like Charity Hope Valentine, our heroine, is greater now than ever. This musical is guaranteed to entertain as it breaks your heart and that is a gift to cherish.

I headlined the article mentioning Stephen Casey. He is a treasure that Bucks County has been blessed with for a few decades. A Casey show is well-cast and choreographed. He picks the best and brings the best out of them. The best includes Adriana Milbrath as Charity. Imagine if Dorothy Gale made a wrong turn and instead of going to Oz, got to Port Authority without a job.

Caleb Funk is a better Oscar than even the original John McMartin or revival Michael Rupert on Broadway. His lanky awkwardness gives way to confidence in Act 2.

Funk is amazing. His meeting Charity is a Cinderella story for Oscar, which generally doesn’t land this strongly. Except Funk’s exceptional acting and characterization brings that totally home, making this “Sweet Charity” exceptional.

Kudos for note-perfect acting, singing and dancing to Christina Fuscellaro as Nickie and Sierra Wilson as Helene, the seasoned dance hall girls. Damien DeShaun Smith has natural jazz cool as Evangelist Daddy Brubeck.

Kevin Toniazzo-Naugthton as movie star Vittorio Vidal has done more with this role than I have ever seen. He reminds me of a young Kevin Kline, but with a better singing voice. Renee McFillin as Ursula, Vittorio’s jealous lover, is flawlessly tempestuous and filled with classy Euro-rage. She shows how anger can be sexy, especially when wearing a designer dress.

The costumes (by Linda Bee Stockton) are incredible and they show themselves off especially in the ensemble “Rich Man’s Frug” and “Rhythm of Life.” Those two numbers stop the show with their Fosse-inspired dancing/staging that Casey delivers, starting with a simmer and going to full boil.

“Sweet Charity” is a must-see for stand-out performances, ensemble dancing and Casey’s cast making magic. Charity has hooked me. I have fallen hard, along with the rest of the audience who is giving her a standing ovation. The show continues through Aug. 14. Tickets are at

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