I'm The Bravest Individual I Have Ever Met: Sweet Charity

Once upon a time a kooky, bubbly, pretty girl fell in love all too much, and always with the wrong men and ended up broke, heartbroken but always with rose-colored glasses to look through --- picking up the pieces, ready to love again, with a song and a dance number to boot.

If it weren't set in the 60s, I'd have mistaken a version of me for that paragraph alone.

But, anyway. Charity Hope Valentine, played by Nikki Gil {who also starred in last year's Legally Blonde} is the ever-hopeful taxi-dancer / dance hall hostess who literally wears her heart on her sleeve {she has a heart tattoo on her arm}who after too many men coming in and out of her life -- some worn her out, some wore out her wallet and her most recent ex threw her into the lake after mugging her, but got up with a positive disposition in life and loved like she was never hurt. "You run your heart like a hotel. You got guys checking in and out all the time," says Charity's older, veteran dancer colleague at the Fandango Dance HotelNickie, who is played by Shiela Valderrama - Martinez.

Thanks to a friend {hello, Ruth!} and fellow musical enthusiast, I caught the preview of the Manila run of Sweet Charity.

In all honestly, I had no idea what it was about, nor when it ever started running, nor where it was based {Nights of Cabiria} and that in itself was a good thing because I ended up laughing and getting teary eyed over this Broadway hit, which was revived by Christina Applegate in 2005.

The Cast of Sweet Charity showing in Manila all weekends of August

She just wants to be loved, really. Some ten, twenty minutes into the musical, this was clearly Charity's mission in life. As she recounts in various numbers, she tells the audience of the men who have taken advantage of her kindness, her money {bowling money, Atlantic City money, food money, she's given it all}. Her brand of hope, kookiness and unabashed optimism separates her from her Fandango colleagues who have become poster girls for cynicism. They {Nickie, Helene {Ciara's Greek dancer} and Carmen, the Latina!} and seedy, shady dance club culture. One thing could be said about every scene with the three of them in it though --- I was laughing so hard I almost fell off my seat.

I thought that while Nikki Gil as Charity Hope Valentine was not too convincing as a 60s taxi dancer/hostess {she's very wholesome and sweet!} despite the tireless energy and kick-ass moves, I thought she was able to emulate the better half of who Charity was -- a girl who would always have the hand to help and give love. Here was a girl who would sing with a claustrophobic man in an elevator {played by Kris Lawrence} to help ease his erratic behavior, to calm him. It was in this sequence {I believe it was the beginning of the second act} that I thought the guy playing Oscar Lindquist was a theater veteran, believing he really had claustrophobia. As it turns out, this was Lawrence's debut into the Philippine theater.

And as if right on cue, they end up falling in love. Charity launches into a dilemma of whether to confess to Oscar what she really does for a living. After gathering her wits and courage to do so, Oscar proposes to her and asks her hand in marriage.

There, she is finally loved.

And so she sang. But things do not always work out the way they would seem to be, ideally. A confession from Oscar forces Charity to revert the thing she should've done way, way, before:

Love herself.

She is, after all the bravest individual she's ever met.

Someone asked me if trooping to RCBC theater was worth it and I say yes, it was worth it. I could tell the entire cast went into rigorous practice to achieve the effect Bob Fosse {the original choreographer for this musical} had envisioned. I especially liked the routine in the The Rich Man's Frug, as seen below:

and Big Spender, which is apparently the most popular song from the musical:

I think for a time there, I thought I time traveled when I saw the girls on the barre.

Other items of note:

  • OJ Mariano as Vittorio Vidal was just ah-mazing. I believed he had hair and thought his tenor was impressive. Then again, that's just me and what do I know about Italian tenors, right?
  • Ciara Sotto-Oconer as the Greek taxi-dancer Helene was literally laugh-out-loud funny in her Greek quips. I'd watch the show again if only for her speaking parts.
  • Sheree Bautista was convincing as a Latina dancer. She confessed to having studied and pegged Sofia Vergara for this role {Modern Family's Gloria!} and now I understand why she sounded like her. It worked!
  • Kris Lawrence looks better with his wig in this show. Ok, maybe it's because I'm not a fan of mohawks but he does look cute and preppy in his hairstyle for this show. Also, the guy's done well as an OC, claustrophobic Oscar Lindquist.

Directed by Robbie Guevara {who also directed Rent's Manila run}, the show does not fail to make the audiences' eyes go big as the show comes together in exquisite 60s-inspired stage, dancing, sexy lights, synchronized choreography and vocal powerhouse, I was only too glad coming out of the theater for having witnessed another theater delight. Aside from it being hilarious, a girl {hint, hint!} can pick up wisdom from Charity Valentine

. There can never be too many reminders to love ourselves.

*Other cast members include

Miguel Faustmann, OJ Mariano, Tasy Garrucha, Caisa Borromeo, Chinie Nepomuceno, Vinia Pamplona and Carmelle Ros, Topper Fabregas, Job Bautista. Francis Matheu, Anthony Tarrosa Ong, Peter Alcedo and Chai Relucio

Again, thank you Ruth and most importantly, to all these theater productions who bring not just the usual musicals to the country and making them available and convenient to watch. I dream of the day when every musical showing is like a box-office hit every single night!

**Sweet Charity runs from August 5 to 27 -- Friday 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. , Saturday 3:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.  and Sunday 4 p.m.  For tickets and more information, call (632) 557-5860, 586-7105 or  (63) 917-5545560 or email info@9workstheatrical.com.