Sweet Charity

ideas, images, for our production of Sweet Charity at the Shaw Festival

Julie Martell is Charity. The last time we worked with Julie was in A Little Night Music. This will be a lot more than a little. Julie also starred in Gypsy at the Shaw.


Above, set with fly piece, below, fly piece detail. The main component of the set is a forty foot catwalk, which serves many of the locales including the Fandango club and the New York subway, Left, dressing room table

Another detail for catwalk, above. These preliminary sketches are done by Ken but are not the finished drawings which are created on a CAD program for accuracy. This sketch shows the relative size of a person on the set piece. The openings below the catwalk will also double as separate dance areas for the women in the Fandango club. Not shown here, a bar which runs, at about six feet across the entire lower level, doubling as a sideways pole in the club and an overhead handle for the New York subway train

A lot of our inspiration is coming from the iconic NYC subway, and the idea of a rumbling underbelly

Mark Uhre, left, plays Italian movie star Vittorio Vidal, not by accident dressed in white and and looking just a little like Marcello Mastroianni

Somewhere under a bridge, somewhere in Manhattan, the Rhythm of Life Church gathers to hear Jeremy Carver-James as Daddy Brubeck

Cy Coleman, left, wrote the music for Sweet Charity, Neil Simon, Pulitzer winner, the book

Sweet Charity is based on the Federico Fellini screenplay for Nights of Cabiria. In the Fellini film the main character is a prostitute, something that the Broadway version shied away from instead making the lead character a dance-for-hire girl

Kyle Blair, below, brings his considerable skills to the role of Oscar, the neurotic new BFF of Charity Hope. We last worked with Kyle in The Admirable Crichton

Sketch for the entrance to the Nightclub, which we have decided not to name as anything other than that. The actors will enter through here then climb the catwalk so that they can make a grand entrance into the Rich Mans Frug originally choreographed by Bob Fosse, below left, but taking a decidedly new and different direction with our choreographer, Parker Esse, below, right

Meanwhile, costume designer, Charlotte Dean goes shopping in New York for fabric, these will eventually show up somewhere under the Manhattan bridge in the Rhythm of LIfe. Some costumes will be pulled from stock and rebuilt or refitted but because Charity is set in a period not usually covered by the Shaw Festival, a lot of things will have to be made from scratch. There arent a lot of Bernard Shaw plays with hippies in them. Right, Ken pops in on Gwyneth at the paint shop to check on the floor colour. By the time the actors arrive for rehearsal, the set will already be in storage, waiting. Below, the lovely Charlotte Dean, who has designed costumes for us at Shaw for four years in a row, including last years Arms and the Man. This design is particularly close to her heart since she grew up in the period, as we did, and knows the look very well.

Italian Neorealism (Italian: Neorealismo), also known as The Golden Age of Italian Cinema, is a national film movement characterized by stories set amongst the poor and the working class, filmed on location, frequently using non-professional actors. Italian Neorealist films mostly contend with the difficult economic and moral conditions of Italian post-World War II, representing changes in the Italian psyche and conditions of everyday life, including poverty, oppression, injustice and desperation.

Frederico Fellinis film The Nights of Cabiria, about a prostitute in Rome looking for happiness, is an example of Italian Neorealism. Below, from Wikpedia

Melanie Phillipson, left, and Kimberley Rampersad, right, play Charitys two best buddies in the Fandango club. Not that Charity has a whole lot of friends, but these two take time to Dream their dream in the dressing room of the dancehall. From the 1920s and onward, women sold their time, among other things, to men who sought companionship, sex, romance, in taxi dance halls.

Above, Jasmine Chen is fitted for a hairpiece as a waitress in the crazy Pompeii Club where Charity meets The Rich Mans Frug, as Jasmine serves cocktails, on point. Right, Kyle Blair in a fitting for Oscar in the costume department with Charlotte and Phil the tailor. Far right, the set on stage for the first time, and below, some ideas for video imaging of of the RP screen upstage of the catwalk.

Luckily, for this particular production, the stage was made available earlier than usual so that we could work out complicated moves involving the large set piece, right, which not only is multi-levelled but moves up and down stage

The ladies on the catwalk, above, from left to right, Starr Domingue, Julain Molnar, Kristi Frank, Lindsey Frazier Kelly Grainger, Kiera Sangster, and Jasmine Chen, looking for big spenders and sharing the common thread of sexual objectification at the Fandango Club. How women of the period gain their independence is a matter of available choices more than moral ones.

Bonnie Beecher, left, lights a very tricky and complicated show with many locations, often evoked with a minimum of influences, light often being the most essential. Bonnie last lit for us at Soulpepper for their smash hit Parfumerie.

Cam Davis, right, provides a visual backdrop for the show with projections front and back, adding a three dimensional quality to the work, or at least something close. Cam last worked with us as videographer for Art at Canadian Stage and since then has been very busy around Toronto and the rest of the country, creating images for many exciting theatre productions

Rounding out the Sweet Charity ensemble, left to right, Travis Seetoo, Matt Nethersole, Grant Landry, Aaron Hastlelow, Howard J Davis, Colton Curtis, and David Ball, and, left, Genny Sermonia. A fantastically talented and impossible energetic group. One of the most important and often most under-rated jobs in a big musical is the work of the chorus, particularly in such a demanding dance show as this. Aside from provided needed atmosphere and a cast of necessary characters, the ensemble also brings energy, variety, charm, wit, and populates a world into which Charity is thrown, and without which there is, quite simply, no show. Some of these actors have been at Shaw for several years, like David, Travis, and Aaron, while others are new to the company and now part of a vital team of performers, and whose careers have only just begun.

No musical, of course, would exist without the likes of the guy pictured on the left. Paul Sportelli, who has been with the Shaw Festival for a number of years, as musical director, and has also conducted and musical directed on and off Broadway, for David Mirvish in Toronto, as well as countless smaller shows and national tours. We last worked with Paul at Shaw in A Little Night Music. Paul not only conducts Charity and musical directs, but has also created the orchestration for the production.

Jay Turvey, a Shaw Festival veteran, and a brilliant musical talent. works with us for the first time since we began at Shaw. He plays Herman, keeper of the Fandango Club and somewhat shady employer of the women who occupy that space. In his spare time, Jay also works with Paul on many projects, some of which can be seen on their website www.jaypaulproject.com

Owing to our particular take on this production we have reproduced iconic symbols from the NYC subway system and painted them on a lipstick red floor, indicated on the left with this artistic rendering from Kens ipad, along with, below, left, colourization of photographs from the period to use as locations which can remain black and white or change like this to introduce certain musical numbers, symbolizing how Charity brings colour into a grey world, and right, a sketch for a hat idea for David Ball in I Always Cry at Weddings, where Herman, the dancers, and some patrons improvise a musical number

Left, detail for pants in Frug, and right, Julie spending big energy, counter clockwise Frug dancers, Charity and Oscar on a high, Big Daddy getting converts, Fandango girls posing, Charity and friends wanting something better, a brass band tap routine at 42nd St. and Vittorio and Ursula getting it on. All production photos courtesy of our brilliant friend David Cooper