I was fortunate enough to watch the very first public show of 9 Works Theatrical’s Sweet Charity last August 3, which was the technical dress rehearsal. Before the start of the show, Director Robbie Guevarra gave a few words. He talked about how it’s been a long time since Manila has seen a dance musical, so they wanted to have a test audience before the run actually began. So I was to be a guinea pig for that night, and was encouraged to give my feedback, whether positive or not, to members of the cast or crew.
Having seen this show almost a decade ago in the US, I had some idea about what the show was about. Sweet Charity tells the adventures of Charity Hope Valentine, a bar hostess with a big heart who is unlucky in love. In the lead role of Charity is Nikki Gil. Although known to most as a pop singer, TV actress and host, she is proving to be quite the asset to the local musical theater scene. She doesn’t fail to capture the audience when she is on stage (which is most of the time).
The supporting cast kept up the energy as well. Ciara Sotto-Oconer and Sheree Vidal-Bautista are both sexy and funny as Charity’s co-dancers. Kris Lawrence is hilarious in his role of Oscar, the nervous, claustrophobic man. OJ Mariano was also enjoyable both as the movie actor Vittorio Vidal and “church” leader Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck. As I have previously cited in my musical review of RENT, however, OJ still tends to force out his high notes.
What struck me the most about this musical was the number of musicians employed. I saw around 9-11 musicians to create a “big band” kind of sound. This is a step up from previous musicals staged in RCBC, wherein a number of synthesizers are used to replace real instruments for the sake of cost-cutting as well as space-saving. For Sweet Charity, I was pleased to hear actual instruments, which greatly reduced the synthesized sound that I have grown accustomed to hearing in RCBC.
This musical does not have the typical fairy tale ending one would normally expect from a comedy musical like this, but, nevertheless, Sweet Charity proves to be entertaining. So what does this guinea pig audience member have to say? Well, it was sure worth the trip to the heavy-traffic-land of Makati. Well done, 9 Works Theatrical.