The Latino spirit is alive in New Harlem Arts Theatre's production of "Sweet Charity," directed by Julio Agustin, presented tonight, July 26 to August 19 at CCNY's Aaron Davis Hall, 135th Street and Convent Ave.
The characters of the classic sixties musical will be re-envisioned to reflect the changing roles of Latinos in our society while the traditional music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon will be preserved. The 1966 Broadway tuner was originally conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse. Director Julio Agustin has tapped choreographer Lainie Munro for the job of nestling his radical new concept into Fosse's formative jazz dances.
"Sweet Charity" was originally based on Federico Fellini's screenplay," Nights of Cabiria," a tale of the romantic ups-and-downs of an ever-hopeful prostitute, with the central character adapted to a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. Agustin saw similarities between this endearing protagonist and a succession of Latina stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Eva Longoria, Eva Mendez, Shakira and Rita Hayworth, each of whom, through tumultuous relationships and (for the most part) public divorces, maintained a public image of innocence and held out hope for a love that is happily-ever-after. ("I am a good, gentle person, but I am attracted to mean personalities" confessed MargaRita Carmen Cansino, better known as Rita Hayworth.) Thus was born an idea to make the title character into Caridad, a Latina Sweet Charity, setting the musical in a neighborhood that is 60s in feel and fun, but also urban, edgy and contemporary.
Watch for a surprising plot twist at the end that gives the female protagonist a strength she hasn't had in past productions.
The production will bridge the world of Latino culture with the traditional sound that is so prevalent in the score of the show. New Haarlem Arts Theatre is the professional resident company of City College of New York (CCNY) and this show draws upon the enormous amount of minority talent that exists in the theater program at CCNY. Its 28 actors will be a mixture of established New York professionals and emerging artists. By opening its casting to current students in the theater program, and also by providing understudy opportunities and double-casting in the chorus and supporting parts, New Haarlem Arts Theatre provides valuable work experience for CCNY students and recent graduates. The company of this show includes six current students and seven CCNY alumni.
The show introduces Edlyn González as Charity/Caridad, supported by Dennis Wit as Herman (Charity's domineering boss), Cedric Leiba, Jr. as Vittorio (Charity's would-be lover/savior) and Jeff Wojcicki as Oscar (Charity's would-be fiancee). Featured are Aili Venho as Helene, Allicia Lawson as Nickie, Jasmine Romero as Ursula, and Tiffany Caserta as Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck.
The male ensemble includes Adam Aguilar Jimenez, Skizzo Armedillo, Wilber Escobar, Ehizoje Azeke, Anthony Martinez, Ari Stachel, Roberto Guzman, Timothy Chan and Bernard Johnson. Standby for Daddy is Alexander Casasnovas.
The female ensemble includes Amy Lee Sanchez, Kelly Rosado, Jade Eshete, Mabel Gomez, Monica Delgado, Maria del Mar Gonzalez, Shiori Ichikawa, Samantha Randolph and Trevania Campbell. Standby for Charity is Alyssa Gomez.
There will be an orchestra of six musicians led by Musical Director Brett Pontecorvo and musical supervision by Andre Danek (keyboardist for "Memphis" on Broadway). Set Designer is Patrice Davidson. Costume Designer is Mary Myers. Lighting Designer is Thurston Reyes. Sound Designer is Aman-re Jack.