L to R: Patti Airoldi as Nickie, Moriah Patterson as Charity Hope Valentine and Jessica Mylonas as Helene
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Lily Darragh | Shot on location at Argenta Community Theater
Charity Hope Valentine is a hopeless romantic who, despite her misfortunes with life + love, remains confident that she’ll find happiness. Audiences continue to enjoy her antics and adventures more than 50 years after Sweet Charity made its Broadway debut. This summer, Argenta Community Theater presents its unique rendition of the musical under the direction of Brandon Box Higdem, who has worked with ACT in different capacities since its inception. The poignant portrayal of the leading ladies – Charity, Helene and Nickie – represents the essence of community theater with a timeless message of self-discovery and acceptance. Their diverse professional experience coupled with their devotion to theater brings this production to the stage with an optimistic + encouraging perspective for a brighter future.
Community theater cultivates a sense of community that inspires and strengthens a collective belonging among its constituents through fellowship, understanding and appreciation. Patti Airoldi, an ACT alumna, explains, “From the designers to the actors and technicians, we’re all from different professions – attorneys, doctors, restaurateurs and computer coders, to name few. We’re everyday people with talent and a passion to perform. Sharing the experience with cast and crew as well as the audience – there’s no feeling like it.”
Sweet Charity is reimagined for its ACT premier – with inspiration from Dutch modern movement artist Piet Mondrian – where love takes the spotlight. “After all, we all just want to be loved and accepted,”
Brandon explains. “We’re taking a retro game show approach with a universal theme ‘you gotta play to win’ – despite the heartache.”
Based on the boisterous book by Neil Simon, the Central Arkansas production promises signature Fosse choreography by Christen Burke Pitts and Katherine Greer with a groovy score by Cy Coleman – including favorites Big Spender and If My Friends Could See Me Now. Moriah Patterson notes, “I love strong characters. Charity is a girl who just wants to be loved – yet she remains fun, spunky, unapologetic and all her own. She’s a great lesson in optimism for all of us.” Brandon adds, “The structure of the set design is really juxtaposed to Charity’s inner spirit of sometimes shocking disregard for the social norms of her peers.” It captures the energy, humor and heartbreak of life in the city that never sleeps with a “hopefully ever after” ending.
Argenta Community Theater was established through the vision of Vincent Insalaco, Sally Riggs Insalaco and Judy Tenenbaum. The black box theater is named after Sally to honor her contribution to the arts. It has become a beacon in Central Arkansas for innovative collaborations as well as a nurturing place for its patrons and participants. “Community theater can mean different things to different communities,” Vincent explains. “For ACT, it’s bringing together the best professional and amateur talent in the state for a production that helps to educate and engage the community.” Many ACT performances haven’t been presented often, if ever, in Central Arkansas. “We want to challenge ACT and the community.” Under the leadership of Vince and Judy, ACT welcomes weddings, community events and special partnership performances – like Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled – to the venue with a spirit of inclusion that celebrates diversity of age, culture and experience. As ACT continues to offer these kinds of performances by and for our community, it improves the landscape of Central Arkansas.
Self-Described Role in Sweet Charity
Moriah Patterson: Charity Hope Valentine
A girl who just wants to be loved, Charity’s got fierce optimism – according to her, that’s plenty.
Jessica Mylonas: Helene
She’s straightforward, tough as nails and maybe even a little bitter – she’s got a heart, but it’s got layers.
Patti Airoldi: Nickie
Nickie is a taxi dancer at the Fandango Ballroom and close friend to Charity and Helene.
Why Community Theater
MP: It’s teamwork that happens to get a show up and running. When you get a group of individuals together who do this as a passion, everyone has to work together to accomplish all the big and little things that are needed to build the show.
JM: The relationships. Hands-down. I have made lifelong friends through community theater. There is something incredibly unifying about doing the gut-wrenching work of creating a production, for no other reason than “the love of the game,” that forges these incredibly special connections.
PA: Everyday people who, for one reason or another, aren’t working as “professional actors” still have amazing, moving, inspiring performances to give. And it’s not just actors; it’s the crew, the technicians and designers, the musicians – everyone. The passion that ignites the synergy and makes theatrical magic; we do it for the love of theater.
MP: Belle from Beauty & The Beast at The Studio Theatre
JM: Mary Magdalene from Jesus Christ Superstar at ACT
PA: Margie from Good People at The Weekend Theater
Dark Night Annual Dinner – September 2017
A Christmas Carol – December 2017
Follies – February & March 2018
Dance ImpACT – April 2018
To Kill A Mockingbird – April 2018
ACTing Up – June 2018
Big River – July 2018