'Sweet Charity' brings spice, comedy despite lack of space

Play succeeds in limited space

Just like its titular character, Pauper Players’ current production of the musical comedy “Sweet Charity” displays a deliberate hopefulness as it aims to escape confining limitations.

Despite the spatial limitations of the Union Cabaret — where the production is staged — director and choreographer Michael McWaters presented a pleasing, dynamically choreographed evening of song and dance.

This lovable musical documents the romantic ups and downs of a naively optimistic dance hall hostess yearning for a better life in 1960s New York City.

theater review

Sweet Charity
Pauper Players
Friday, Nov. 12
Arts verdict: 3.5 of 5 stars

IF?YOU?GO

Time: 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
Location: Student Union Cabaret
Tickets: $5 students, $10 public
Info: www.unc.edu/pauper

A lack of plot in the first act was countered by intricate dance numbers, strategically angled to play to both sides of the packed house.

These impressive large-scale numbers ranged from frenzied disco parodies to vampy dance hall numbers, providing some of the production’s best moments.

The most memorable of these numbers came halfway through the first act with “Rich Man’s Frug,” a six-minute, dance-intensive scene with performers dressed in black and white in a night club.

The choreography pulsed with a defiant sexuality, complementing the jaunty ’60s orchestration.

Carefully choreographed numbers like these showcased the student talent in the company and kept audience members engaged when plot development slowed.

The actors themselves executed comedic brilliance in a script sometimes void of sentimentality.

In her freshman debut, Margaret Burrus had a comic polish and an easy, conversational way with song in her lead role as Charity Hope Valentine.

Her portrayal of the trials that take Charity from failed lover to failed lover slowly won the audience over with its charming simplicity.

Though sometimes lagging during musical numbers, Burrus’ sunny disposition and spot-on comedic timing served her well as the show continued.

As Charity’s hard-worn best friends, senior Olivia Myrick’s Nickie and freshman Taylore Woods’ Helene bring a lively comedic spark to the gag-filled script with their thick Brooklyn accents and sarcastic wisecracks.

From the moment the brassy opening notes of the show’s most famous song, “Big Spender,” rung, the duo brightened the musical with memorable personalities and well-earned laughs.

Scenic design proved to be an unhelpful distraction, as bulky set pieces slowed down scene changes while contributing little to the action on stage.

In what may not be expected from an entirely student-run production, “Sweet Charity” is a thoroughly professional performance that brings a smile and tap of the foot of every audience member.

Though Pauper eventually hopes to return to its roots in the recently reopened Historic Playmakers Theatre, the troupe’s latest creation shows that it doesn’t need a larger space to deliver a big hit.

Contact the Arts Editor at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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