New Sweet Charity to Have U.S. Debut in Chicago, July 2003; Walter Bobbie Helms

News   New Sweet Charity to Have U.S. Debut in Chicago, July 2003; Walter Bobbie Helms Toronto may be the first city to see the new Broadway bound production of the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields-Neil Simon musical, Sweet Charity, starring Marisa Tomei, but Chicago can claim the U.S premiere.

Toronto may be the first city to see the new Broadway bound production of the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields-Neil Simon musical, Sweet Charity, starring Marisa Tomei, but Chicago can claim the U.S premiere.

The tuner will bow at Chicago's Shubert Theatre July 1, 2003, and stay until July 20. The run will follow performances at the Canon Theatre in Toronto May 20 June 29, 2003. The New York Times has reported Aug. 17 as the opening night on Broadway.

Producing are Barry and Fran Weissler and Clear Channel Entertainment. Presenting the show in Toronto are David and Ed Mirvish. Walter Bobbie (Chicago, Footloose) is director.

Marisa Tomei will play the title dreamer, Charity Hope Valentine, a romantic dance hall hostess who just can't seem to find true love despite her wide-eyed hopes and open heart. No further casting has been announced.

By opening in August, the producers are taking a page from the success of Hairspray, which opened in the doldrums of summer 2002 to become the biggest musical hit of the season. Fran Weissler first confirmed the casting to Playbill On Line in October, adding that Tomei—who is a credited dramatic and comedic stage actress, but is not known for her singing and dancing—auditioned for composer Cy Coleman and the revival's choreographer.

Since accepting the role in Charity, Tomei has bowed out of an Off Broadway run of David Lindsay Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo, set to begin previews at Manhattan Theatre Club Jan. 4, 2003. She is now playing the title role in a series of readings of Oscar Wilde's Salome starring Al Pacino, at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn.

Tomei's last Broadway credit was the short lived revival of the thriller Wait Until Dark. Off-Broadway work includes Waiting for Lefty, Slavs!, and Demonology. Tomei won the Academy Award for "My Cousin Vinnie." Her film career after that honor was erratic, but she has recently returned to form with praised performances in "The Slums of Beverly Hills," "What Women Want" and "In the Bedroom."

Sweet Charity was composed by Cy Coleman with lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon. The musical is based on the screenplay "Nights of Cabiria," the classic film by Federico Fellini. The most recent Broadway revival of Charity played the Minskoff Theatre in 1986-87 (directed and choreographed by the man who created the show, Bob Fosse; it would be one of his final directing jobs before his death). It starred Debbie Allen as Charity, Bebe Neuwirth as Nicky and Michael Rupert as Oscar. The 1966 original was conceived by Bob Fosse for wife Gwen Verdon, who played Charity. John McMartin played Oscar.

The score includes "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "Big Spender," "Baby, Dream Your Dream," "Where Am I Going?," "I'm a Brass Band," "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" and "Rhythm of Life." A film version starred Shirley MacLaine.

—By Robert Simonson