Meet Charity Hope Valentine – a girl who just wants to be loved.
She’s a taxi dancer at a dancehall in New York’s Fandango ballroom. Much to her chagrin, no decent man in the 1960’s would dare marry a girl who dances for a living. So Charity decides the key to finding love is keeping her job secret. She then falls for clean cut, church-going Oscar Lindquist, who falls right back for her. She later grows tired of the lie and confesses her profession. Shocked and appalled, Oscar leaves her on her knees begging for his acceptance as he walks away from his “Sweet Charity.”
Written by Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon, this musical premiered on Broadway in 1966 with direction and choreography by Bob Fosse. It is based on Federico Fellini’s screenplay “Nights of Cabiria” which features the story of the romantic rollercoaster of an Italian prostitute. Softening out their script by making its heroine a dance hall hostess, this adaptation was turned into a film musical in 1969 starring Shirley MacLaine with John McMartin reprising his Broadway role of Oscar, with Fosse maintaining his role as director and choreographer.
Heather Bilodeau, who is the communications coordinator for LSU Union Theatre said that the University is proud and excited to be a part of the famed musical’s 2014 tour.
“LSU is always looking to bring a variety of shows to the Baton Rouge community,” Bilodeau said. “We felt that ‘Sweet Charity’ would be a perfect Broadway show to introduce to our audience. It is a fun, tender, poignant and humorous look at the misadventures in the ways of love, which reveals the unforgettable Charity Valentine. Filled with singing, dancing, laughs, and cries – ‘Sweet Charity’ is sure to be a crowd pleaser.”
Robert John Biedermann joins the 2014 company as manager and in the role of Herman, the dance hall owner. He said he’s been in love with the production almost as long as it’s existed and has waited years to be a part of it.
“I have a couple of small scenes in the beginning but [Herman] is kind of a rough guy – they refer to him as the Hitler of the place because [he’s] always yelling at everyone but [he] ends up having a soft spot,” Biedermann said.
That soft spot is found in what’s been Biedermann’s favorite part of the musical for 42 years – the song “I Love to Cry at Weddings.”
“There’s a part where I stop singing and I start reflecting on the fact that I’m not married – I’m an old man; I’m alone,” Biedermann said. “And off goes Charity with somebody who she loves and leaves the dancehall. It’s sort of like when someone is sharing your misery and they decide to break out and do something positive and it kind of makes you very reflective.”
While only comprising a small role in “Sweet Charity” Biedermann is no stranger to the stage. He’s done 11 national tours, doubling as company manager for five of them. One of his most recent productions was a 600 show tour of The Wizard of Oz where he played The Wizard. In comparison he said that this tour is relatively short, visiting only 17 cities.
“Sweet Charity” features a cast of 18 singers, with 17 doubling as dancers – Biedermann is the lone man out as far as dancing is concerned, saying that he is more of a singer than a dancer anyway.
“Personally I love working with these young ladies – they’re great dancers – and they’re wonderful actresses who make my role a lot easier to play,” he said.
It’s the story of searching for love, finding love, losing love and finding yourself – something in which many can relate and many have flocked to see in its 45 years of production. It’s won Tony Awards for some of Broadway’s biggest names including Bob Fosse, Michael Rupert and Bebe Neuwirth – and this week, it’ll be right here in Baton Rouge.