PLATTSBURGH — Director Derrick A. Hopkins saw a need and staged a benefit production for Strand Restoration! this weekend in the E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium at Plattsburgh State.
“Last summer, I did a production at the Strand, and I noticed a lot of good work that had been going on,” Hopkins said. “I had a conversation with Leigh Mundy (president of the NCCCA Board of Directors) about how close they were to meeting their capital campaign.”
The Strand Restoration! is $700,000 short of its approximately $4 million project.
Hopkins gathered his team — Antonette Knoedl (choreographer), Jennifer Moore (music director and conductor) and Kristy Dantes (production assistant) — and sat down with Mundy and North Country Cultural Center for the Arts staffers to brainstorm. The Bob Fosse production of “Sweet Charity” was the upshot.
The book is by Neil Simon, music by Cy Colman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Hopkins scored an artistic coup with musical accompaniment by the Adirondack Jazz Orchestra.
“They wanted to be part of it, and we were blown away by that,” Hopkins said. “You have the area’s best jazz musicians come out and agree to help the Strand raise the money. We wanted to do a show that had great jazz music that could really feature the orchestra and do a show that had never really been done in the North Country.”
Musical selections include “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “Big Spender” and “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.”
“It has a great libretto written by Neil Simon and has a great jazz score,” Hopkins said.
Rehearsals began in late May, and the cast members include: Jennifer Gero (Charity), Andrew Ducharme (Oscar), Jackie Robertin (Nickie) and Ruby Roache (Helene).
“We have a cast of 25, a plethora of vast and colorful characters,” Hopkins said. “The show takes place in the ‘60s. Charity is a dance-hall hostess. She’s trying to find love and get herself out of the business of a taxi dancer. In the late ‘60s, a taxi dancer was kind of like a step up from being a hooker. Men would pay women to dance with them and sit and talk with them.”
A taxi dancer for eight years, Charity longs to fall in love, marry and have a normal life.
“She’s in love with this man called Charlie. He treats her badly and breaks up with her in the first scene. She falls in love with Victorio, who leaves her in five minutes. She finally meets Oscar. It finally looks like she’s got it right with this one,” Hopkins said. “She’s desperate to be loved. He’s a shy, introverted man and is brought out of his shell by her.”
One of the show’s biggest challenges was Fosse’s genius.
“It’s very specific in what needs to happen in the choreography,” Hopkins said. “Antonette (Knoedl), she’s a terrific dancer. She really took on the challenge of Bob Fosse. In Act I, there is a six-minute dance number where she had to choreograph it all in the style of Bob Fosse. It specifically says what Bob Fosse move is supposed to happen when. She had to take that and create these numbers that are so difficult, but they look amazing.”
The costuming swings between concert-black attire and tie-dyes.
“What is funny, people were bringing things they had in their closet. I was like, ‘Where do you people shop?’ They had all these great things in their closets we could piece together,” Hopkins said.
The actors rehearsed with the orchestra for the first time this week.
“They can sit down and read the score,” Hopkins said of the orches
tra. “They only need a few practices — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — to get it together. All the teachers and professionals, some live in Tupper, some down in Ticonderoga. They are coming in from all over to do this.”
“Sweet Charity” promises more than finding elusive love.
“The big goal is to raise these funds to help them put a dent in the last part of the capital campaign that they need,” Hopkins said. “The one concern for patrons is parking. They’re doing renovations. That one lot will fill. People may park at Myers (Fine Arts Building), the hospital or on the streets.”
There is a lot behind the college president’s home and at Redcay Hall.
“People can carpool if they know people,” Hopkins said. “Come in one vehicle, and help everybody out.”
Email Robin Caudell: email@example.com
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Sweet Charity.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium, Plattsburgh State.
TICKETS: $20 general admission, $15 seniors (age 62 and up) and students (age 13 to 17). Buy two general admission adult tickets and each child’s ticket (ages 5 to 12) costs $10. Purchase tickets at North Country Cultural Center for the Arts or Plattsburgh State’s Angell College Center Desk.
CONTACT: Orders may be made by phone at 563-1604. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.