Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department Celebrates Bob Fosse with ‘Sweet Charity’ March 14-17

Maria Montero and Rhys Bakulinski perform in the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s production of “Sweet Charity” at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago March 13-17

The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department‘s 2017-2018 Mainstage Season resumes Wednesday, March 14, with Sweet Charity, the hit 1966 musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Dorothy Fields. The show runs through March 17 at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, located at 1306 S. Michigan in Chicago’s South Loop.

Directed by Theatre Department faculty member Ashton Byrum, the show is choreographed by Theatre Department faculty member Amy Uhl in the style of Bob Fosse, the Chicago native who conceived the show and directed and choreographed its original Broadway production and 1969 movie version. Faculty member Jermaine Hill is the musical director, leading an 11-piece orchestra. The cast and most of the production team are students. The exceptionally large cast consists of 39 students (the eight leading roles are double-cast), 26 of whom are making their Mainstage debut at Columbia College. For a full listing of cast and production team members, click here.

Sweet Charity concerns ever-optimistic Charity Hope Valentine, a ballroom taxi-dancer with an endless case of bad luck. Nonetheless, she holds on to hope that someday—maybe today!—she’ll meet the perfect man. That is, if he doesn’t steal her purse, shove her into a closet, or throw her into a river. Again. Sweet Charity sings, dances, and is determined to make life a fantasy parade in her own honor.

Bob Fosse

Bob Fosse HDR ’73 (1927-1987) was born and raised in Chicago, where as a teenager he performed as part of a vaudevillian dance team, The Riff Brothers. Notes director Ashton Byrum: “They worked in seedy dance halls and nightclubs — performing on school nights and weekends. There, he developed an appreciation for the rigors of show business and the women of Burlesque who made a living performing in those places.” In 1973, Fosse received an honorary doctorate from Columbia College Chicago. That same year he became the first — and still only — director to win the “triple crown” of directing awards in a single year: the Oscar (for the movie Cabaret), the Tony (for the Broadway hit Pippin), and the Emmy (for the TV special Liza with a Z!). Fosse’s numerous other credits include choreographing the Broadway and screen versions of The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees; directing, choreographing, and co-writing the Broadway musical Chicago; and directing the autobiographical film All That Jazz, which, like Sweet Charity, was influenced by Fosse’s love of the work of Italian art-film director Federico Fellini.

Amy Uhl

“Fosse’s work is something every dancer dreams of experiencing. Iconic shapes, provocative gestures, and mysterious intentions encompass a style that offers storytelling devices like no other,” says choreographer Amy Uhl. “As a director/choreographer, he forever changed the way audiences viewed dance on stage and in the film industry in the late 20th century and beyond. His genius was in capturing the joyous humor as well as the bleak cynicism that was a reflection of his life as a young artist who often endured the dark side of show biz. . . . He was tireless in his efforts to develop work that addressed the full range of human emotion. He was never fully satisfied with his own work, yet we celebrate him as a world-renowned artist who dared to be different.”

Ashton Byrum

Ashton Byrum

Notes director Byrum: “As a choreographer, Fosse is known for a brilliant, indigenous style that highlights the hideousness of life. He had epilepsy as a child and his parents thought dance might be a good form of exercise for their frail little boy. He proved to be a natural entertainer, but his physicality wasn’t a good fit for the traditional lines of the ballet world, so he used his natural angularity to create dizzying patterns of movement out of ‘ugliness.’ It’s especially fitting to celebrate this particular dance style on the stage of the Dance Center at Columbia College Chicago, home to our innovative colleagues who work to expand and redefine what it means to be a beautiful dancer.”

The performance schedule for Sweet Charity is:
  • Wednesday, March 14, 7 PM
  • Thursday, March 15, 7 PM
  • Friday, March 16, 3 and 7 PM
  • Saturday, March 17, 2 and 7 PM

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for senior citizens and students of other schools, and free for all Columbia College Chicago students and faculty. For tickets, click here.


Michael Allen Harris
Michael Pogue