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Conservatory dance and theatre join forces

Photo by John Altdorfer | Pittsburgh Playhouse
(Left to right) Jane Zogbi, Jasmine Overbough and Gianna Annesi rehearse for the conservatory’s production of Sweet Charity. The show opens at the Playhouse Friday and rusn through March 26.

Written By Victoria Lemon, Playhouse Beat Writer

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The Conservatory Theatre Company is bringing Fosse-style choreography and the aura of the 60s to the Rockwell stage in “Sweet Charity,” directed by Tony-Award winner Michael Rupert.

“Sweet Charity” is about a hopelessly romantic dancer from New York City named Charity Hope Valentine. She works alongside her best friends Nikki and Helene, and she is on a journey to find love and positivity after being conned by a past boyfriend. Charity struggles with accepting herself until she finds a man named Oscar.

“It’s about a hopeful girl who just wants to find love, peace in love and happiness,” senior musical theatre major  and the role of Charity, Jasmine Overbaugh, said. “She gets herself into some trouble… but she still can stay hopeful.”

Although Overbaugh has been a part of previous Pittsburgh Playhouse productions, this is her first named role. This experience has been an opportunity for her to grow as a person and a performer with a different approach.

“It’s been putting me into shape for the real world,” Overbaugh said. “[I’ve learned] prioritizing, preparation for a character in such a way that is complex and not cheesy and to create a real person on the stage.”

“Sweet Charity” is a different show in this season’s lineup; Conservatory Dance Company (CDC) members were allowed to audition due to high intensity choreography present in the production.

“In the past, dance majors have been able to audition for the musicals, but the schedules were overlapping so it was kind of hard to do it,” Gianna Annesi, a junior dance major who plays the role of Helene, said.

The chair of the dance department gave students the opportunity to audition for “Sweet Charity” under the condition that they would not be eligible for casting in conflicting CDC shows.

Annesi believes that this is one of the best experiences she has had at Point Park. She did not expect to be cast as a lead in the show when first auditioning, but it has since encouraged her to step up to the occasion.

“As a dancer, being at this level and being able to work with Michael [Rupert] is really incredible because of being in this atmosphere and witnessing what they process is like,” said Annesi, “I feel like I’m walking away with a lot of knowledge.”

Rupert won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his 1986 performance of Oscar in “Sweet Charity”.

“I still remember doing this show in New York with great fondness,” Rupert said. “It has been really fun to discover this sweet little story again and I’ve really enjoyed taking a look at it again.”

Both theatre majors and dance majors benefit from performing together in the same show. Overbaugh commented on how they learn from each other throughout the rehearsal process.

“It has been an amazing experience seeing these people in their position and how they go about working through situations,” Overbaugh said. “The dancers are so dedicated and precise with their work.”

The show aims to be a lesson in growth not only for each member of the cast, but also for the audience.

“[It teaches you to] stay hopeful,” Overbaugh said in regards to the audience, “with all the politics going on, this is definitely a breath of fresh air and reminds you to stay hopeful even if things are to strike you down.”

“Go see it,” Annesi said. “There is a talented cast up there and you don’t know where they are going to be in the future. Get ready for laughing and for crying.”

The show opens in the Rockwell Theatre at the Pittsburgh Playhouse on March 17 and will run until March 26. There will be a preview on March 16.

Tickets range from $10-$24 and can be purchased at the Playhouse box office or by calling at (412) 392-8000.

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