“Fickle finger of fate!” That’s Charity Hope Valentine’s favorite expression in the classic musical comedy, Sweet Charity, but you might say fate lead Hope Miller to direct Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production opening their 93rd season this September.
It’s fate when the director’s first name is the same as the lead character’s middle name. It’s fate when that director happens to own a successful dance studio and the musical happens to be famous for its iconic Bob Fosse choreography style. Fate brought Miller to Little Theatre of Norfolk.
And that fate traveled a long distance! Miller is so passionate about directing Sweet Charity, that nearly every day, she drives a three-hour round trip between Little Theatre of Norfolk and her home in Woodland, a small town in northeastern North Carolina. “Normally, my summer consists of running several camps at my studio. However, when opportunity knocks, you answer! The opportunity to direct Sweet Charity is a dream come true,” said Miller. “I am having a blast directing and co-choreographing this show, and the cast and crew are unbelievably talented.”
Miller brings a unique perspective to this production partly because she has been dancing and producing shows for 18 years. Fosse choreography, in particular, left an impression on her at a young age. She first became fascinated with the dance style’s isolations and musicality in Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game, which taught her artistic imagination has no limits. Miller explained, “Bob Fosse was a gift to dance and theatre. He created a unique brand of dance choreography that is incomparable. Even Michael Jackson was mesmerized by his artistry and bought the entire Fosse catalogue. He studied and mirrored his every move. Fosse was a phenomenon then and now.”
Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production of Sweet Charity falls just after the one-year anniversary of the August 26 death of acclaimed Broadway playwright, Neil Simon. Simon adapted Federico Fellini’s screenplay of Academy Award winner Nights of Cabiria for the musical’s script. In the Broadway version, Charity is a taxi dancer, not a prostitute like the leading lady in the Italian film. She believes “without love, life has no purpose” so strongly, that she wears her heart on her sleeve – literally with a heart tattoo on her shoulder – and falls fast and frequently for all the wrong men. Charity’s love life gets her pushed into a lake, stuck in a movie star’s closet, and even trapped in an elevator with a claustrophobic tax accountant.
Sweet Charity debuted on Broadway in 1966 starring Fosse’s wife, Gwen Verdon. Shirley McClaine portrayed Charity in the 1969 movie version, while Debbie Allen and Christina Applegate are among the stars who played the title role in the 1986 and 2005 revivals, respectively. Showstoppers such as “Big Spender,” “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “The Rhythm of Life,” and “Rich Man’s Frug” (pronounced “froog”) have made Sweet Charity famous for generations.
Sweet Charity opens September 6 at Little Theatre of Norfolk, located at 801 Claremont Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Norfolk. The production runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through September 29. Tickets are available at ltnonline.org or by calling the box office at (757) 627-8551. Tickets are $18 for adults; $15 for seniors, military and students; and $9 for youth age 17 and under. Free parking is available in the lots behind the theatre and across the street.
Little Theatre of Norfolk is a volunteer led, non-profit community theatre, continually operating since 1926.
Release courtesy of Erin Matteson