Volume 74, Number 45 | March 16 - 22, 2005
Charity returns to Broadway
Denis OHare plays a money man again, this time not such a sweet one
By Jerry Tallmer
Tony Bennett hes certifiably not, but Denis OHare can sing a little, too.
Denis OHare, who won a 2003 Tony Award for Best Actor for his role in Take Me Out as the mild-mannered gay accountant who represents a recently outed baseball star, will return to Broadway in April to play Oscar, the heel who breaks the heart of the title heroine in Sweet Charity.
Over a cup of coffee during a Sweet Charity rehearsal break on swarming 42nd Street, subtle, supple actor OHare sang a few lines now, lightly and nicely: Its important to make a good impression. / If I could make a good impression, / Who knows what this could grow into? / Love and things I wont go into.
That all-purpose speculation could be attached just as well to Mason Marzac, the closeted financial advisor who falls in love with his client, an uncloseted baseball superstar, in Richard Greenbergs Take Me Outscooping up a 2003 Tony Award for OHare in the processbut in Sweet Charity those words are voiced by a heel named Oscar who is about to break the much-broken heart of the waiflike, street-walking heroine all over again.
Ive been in musicals, said OHare. Not a lot, but a few. Did Cabaret back in 98, and a failed Finians Rainbow on the road in 99 and Assassins last year. Thats my musical CV.
A 2004 Tony nomination for his performance in Assassins as Charles Guiteau, killer of President James A. Garfield, is also part of that CV.
This is the third Broadway incarnation of the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields-Neil Simon blockbuster carved by Bob Fosse from the great 1957 Federico Fellini film Le Notti di Cabiria that stars, unforgettably, Fellinis wife, huge-eyed, innocent, ever-smiling Giulietta Massina.
The Charity of the production coming in April to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on West 45th Street is film and televisions Christina Applegate, in the formidable Broadway tracks of Gwen Verdon (1966) and Debbie Allen (1986).
That Good Impression song is new to the musicalplaced in the current production, said OHare, to underline a step in Oscars courtship of Charity. Cy took it from something else and imported it into this show.
No, OHare has actually never before seen Sweet Charity in any form. Pause. Im a virgin. Pause. Just like the character
I mean, metaphorically.
What hes not seen includes the 1969 movie starring Shirley MacLaine. One night at Take Me Out, MacLaine went backstage to say hello but we didnt talk about Sweet Charity.
Okay, but has OHare ever seen Nights of Cabiria?
Yes! I think I saw it back to back with [Fellinis] La Strada. Then I passed out for a couple of daysoverwhelmed with grief. What I remember of Nights of Cabiria survives in Sweet Charity ashe searched for the precise phraseheartbreaking hope.
One difference between the Broadway musical and the Fellini film is that in the musical Oscar and Charity make a plan to go away and get married, but then he loses his nerve and drops her. In the Fellini film, he tries to kill herand he isnt the first. She comes up smiling nevertheless.
OHare as Oscar on 45th Street gets to sing the title songthe first half alone, the second half backed by an angelic chorus.
Then, with a sort of whoop, OHare continued, Oscar is a tax accountant. My second tax accountant! Well, I guess Mason Marzac was more of a money manager. But think of it: I can do The Producers next. From Mason to Oscar to Leo Bloom! Its a step up, anyway. Im used to playing serial killers. Whenever I do a Law & Order, Im always the murderer.
He isnt a murderer in the Once Upon a Mattress that hes just wrapped with Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, and Tommy Smothers for ABC-TV. Im Prince Dauntless.
OHare, who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, with Jamaican-born interior designer Hugo RedmondWeve been together five yearswas born in Kansas City, Missouri, and brought up in the Detroit suburbs.
Very Midwestern. The fourth of five children. Father a businessman and labor-relations expert, mother a nurse and wonderful musician and church organist.
OHare went to Catholic school in Michigan for 12 years, and then to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, from which he emerged with a bachelors degree in speech.
After studying poetry for two years, I decided theater would be more useful. Poetrys my fall-back, OHare said poker-faced.
Hes not really a baseball nut, but he did believe the heroics of the Boston Red Sox were a good sign that John Kerry would win the election. I was wrong.
Are his folks glad about his career, his way of life?
Yes. Theyre always happy when Im singing and not killing people.
Denis OHare, singer, actor, skilled in sensitivity, doesnt kill people. He just knocks them dead.