If Thursday’s opener is any indication, Sweet Charity is sure to please crowds at the Huron Country Playhouse. Starring Stratford legend Cynthia Dale as hopeless-in-love dancer-for-hire Charity Hope Valentine, the cast is rounded out by a line of women whose talent bursts from their barely-there costumes. Their necessary sex appeal is only effective because they (and the male actors) are a solid crew of triple threats, and director Michael Lichtefeld and associates are to be credited for bring fresh talent to the Huron Country Playhouse stage to complement (and in some instances, overshadowing) Dale’s talent. “Big Spender” sets the tone for the musical, and this solid performance outshines the movie version because the actors are sexier and desperately powerful. Spot on. Sweet Charity is a romantic comedy that breaks away from the expectations of the genre, creating tension in relationships and depth in its characters so often lacking in such plays. Bringing the best of drama, comedy, dance and song, this play is one of the best staged at HCP in recent years, and is well aimed at audiences that like musicals and are familiar with the 1960s era (i.e. HCP’s core supporters). While most of the cast had two weeks to rehearse for the show, Cynthia Dale spent the better of six months learning her part to lead the way. At 49, Dale shows no signs of stopping. That said, this role was a dream she had yet to fulfill in her storied career, including the 10 years she spent as the darling of Stratford Festival artistic director Richard Monette before his retirement in 2007.
Casey Lessard stole Dale away from her lunch break to discuss the role and how she ended up in Grand Bend.
Interview and photo by Casey Lessard
Cynthia Dale: Sweet Charity had been a dream role of mine for 30 years. It’s been the part I have wanted to do, and I’ve had some fabulous parts. In January, I was out with some girlfriends, and they said, well, why aren’t you doing it? I said I was too old, etc., but they convinced me to do it.
You’ll be 50 this year. In August. It’s hard on the old bod. I am a dancer, thank God. I didn’t have to learn how to dance for the part. It’s a full part for anybody at any age. It’s just a lot of work, but that’s okay.
What attracted you to this role? It’s who Charity is. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is full of moxy and sass. She’s a broad, but she believes in love and sees the world through rose coloured glasses and dreams of another life. She’s a part of everybody in the world because everyone has those qualities. The show has some of the best music to sing and dance to. It’s just a fabulous show for music. It doesn’t come along that often. It had a revival on Broadway a few years ago and had a brief tour. If I didn’t step into it at this point, I may not get the opportunity again.
This is your first time with Drayton. What’s that been like? It’s great because I know so many people in the cast. I’m doing it because it’s Michael Lichtefeld’s production. I did six shows with Michael at Stratford over the years. He knows me really, really well and knows what my strengths and weaknesses are. I knew I was going to be in really good hands with him.
You’ve been performing for a long time; most of your life. Do you find the roles you think you should be doing are changing? No. I’ve been really lucky in the past two or three years. That hasn’t hit me yet. I played the crème de la crème parts in theatre for 10 years. There weren’t many more that I wanted to play other than this. There are others, but they are older ones. I’ve got some time for those.
You’ve also done some production work, including judging Triple Sensation (she spent the last two years co-producing a CBC movie). With your reputation, are you able to write your own ticket? No, I don’t write my own ticket. I still audition.
But your name must carry some cachet. I guess it does. I got offered a play in Toronto this week I’m probably going to do. I still lose parts I really want to do. Usually they’re TV or film roles. I’ve done pretty much every role I wanted to do in theatre. There are parts that come along and the director just doesn’t think you fit into his vision. That’s what theatre is.
There’s a mystique about people who are on television or film that they are different from other people, but it doesn’t exist. No. We go buy groceries. We’re normal people and we have every single joy and hardship that everyone else does. I love performing, but it’s not the be all and end all for me.
This is your first time being to Grand Bend, but you haven’t been downtown yet. I’ve been too busy. I started training in January, and Michael and I started rehearsals a month beforehand.
I see you also do art, and especially beach scenes. I’m surprised you haven’t been down to the beach. I know, that’s what people keep saying. Go paint the beach. Part of the plan in July is to paint.
Looking at where you’ve been and what you’re doing, what would you like to do for the next 25 years? I want to raise a good kid. That’s the dream. That’s all. If I work, that’s lovely, too.