REVIEW: CCM’s “Sweet Charity” is Joyful

Review by Bryna Chandler

The theme of looking for love is nothing new in theatre productions. Few musical theatre pieces do it with such entertainment and joy as CCM’s classic production of Sweet Charity. Directed and Choreographed by Diane Lala, CCM’s Sweet Charity plays September 28-30 at the Patricia Corbett Theatre on the University of Cincinnati’s campus.  

The Plot

Sweet Charity is a full-scale musical production that tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, an optimistic girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. The dance-centric production follows Charity’s fickle finger of fate as she winds her way through a parade of men who treat her badly. A classic, originally produced in 1966, it features a hit-packed score by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, a joke-packed script by Neil Simon, and is ultimately a vehicle for full-stage Fosse dance productions.

Cast of SWEET CHARITY at UC CCM – Mark Lyons, Lyons Photography, Inc.

The Star

Grace Marie Rusnica, a CCM Senior Musical Theatre major, is brilliant, bubbling, and breathtaking. She is the hopelessly romantic but comically unfortunate leading lady Charity, a dance hall hostess in New York City. With a never-ending dazzling smile, an impressive vocal range, and fluid, flawless dance ability, it feels like Grace Marie Rusnica was made for this role. In some productions, it’s not hard to see Charity as pathetic because of how desperate and naive she seems. Yet, Grace brings honesty, serenity, and spectacular talent to the role, encouraging the audience to root for her because she genuinely deserves to be loved.

Grace Marie Rusnica in SWEET CHARITY at UC CCM – Mark Lyons, Lyons Photography, Inc.

Solid Cast and Dancing

With such a strong leading lady, it would be easy to have Charity overshadow the rest of the production. In reality, the entire cast performs in perfect harmony in show-stopping numbers like “Big Spender” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now.” In particular, Nickie, played by Eliza Levy, and Helene, played by Madison Mosley, individually have amazing voices and dance ability, but together have electrifying harmony. Supporting actors Benjamin Cheng, as Oscar, and Vittorio Vidal, as Stanislav Przedlacki, are just two of Charity’s love interests adding humor and heartbreak to the production.   

As Sweet Charity was originally conceived, directed, and choreographed by Bob Fosse, the production needs amazing choreography and dancers, and CCM’s production is no exception. Director Diane Lala created a production that seamlessly moves from musical numbers to dialogue through dance pieces. Alumni guest artist Joshua Gallagher’s set design helps move the production from a 1960s dance hall to a pier and even a stuck elevator. The silhouettes, clean lines, and mobility of the design pair well with Baron Leon’s Lighting Design, creating bright and beautiful vignettes between musical numbers. Along with the theme of versatility, Clara Cavins’s Costume Design impressively transforms ensemble members across social and economic lines seamlessly, bringing a pop of color that stands out against Joshua Gallagher’s monochromatic set.  

Get Tickets to CCM’s Sweet Charity

CCM’s production of Sweet Charity is a must-see for those wanting to sit back and enjoy a high-tempo, high-energy, humorous production. Showing September 28-30 at the Patricia Corbett Theatre, this production captures all the energy, humor, and heartbreak of an optimist living in the Big City, leaving the audience with a smile and rhythm in their step. For more information, visit CCM’s event website (