Cumberland native stars in Community Players' 'Sweet Charity'

Cumberland native stars in Community Players' 'Sweet Charity'

Cumberland native Lisa Ziniti Palmer stars in the Pawtucket Community Players production of "Sweet Charity," which will show at Jenks Junior High School in Pawtucket, through Sunday, April 13.

Director Greg Geer submitted a number of shows to the board at Pawtucket's Community Players. "I submitted 'Les Mis,' 'Ragtime,' I've forgotten the rest," said Geer recently, "and they liked 'Sweet Charity.'"

So at the end of March, "Sweet Charity" opens in the auditorium at Jenks Junior High School.

The show is based on "a Fellini movie which is very dark," says Geer, "but when you have Neil Simon writing the book to the play, it becomes a lot funnier."

The story follows Charity Valentine, a young lady who wants to fall in love, but "she meets a lot of frogs along the way before she finds her prince. She's a taxi dancer, kind of the lowest rung on the ladder for careers, but she's hopeful, and that's what makes it endearing."

Geer cast Lisa Ziniti Palmer in the title role. "We did 'Legally Blond' together. She's so incredibly talented. Great voice, great dancer, great timing. I was lucky to get her."

She had experience with the performance.

"I had been in the show in college. I was Girl Number Two to the Left," says Palmer with a chuckle. "I was barely in it. But I loved doing it. I have such fond memories."

Palmer just moved back to her native Cumberland three years ago. "If you grow up here, you have to come back." She lived in New York and traveled doing shows for a while. "I did a lot of summer stock, and a small tour of '42nd Street.'" While in New York, she also worked as a waiter, as so many do, and "auditioned every day, going to class, doing all that fun stuff."

In many ways, Palmer has come full circle. "I did a Community Players show when I was 16. 'The Man Who Owned Broadway.' I'm back to the family I hadn't seen in a while."

Geer is really drawn to the dance numbers. "It's a chance to showcase some great dancers." He really enjoys working with the choreographer and music director on the show's big dance numbers. "Working with the ensemble is fun, they're really good."

He admits a great deal of fun with one scene in particular, where Charity is in the apartment of Vittorio, an Italian movie star. "Vittorio's girlfriend shows up, and they have to hide Charity. I said, let's see how far we can push this, and it turned into a great bit of farce. I forgot how stupidly fun that was to do."

"Sweet Charity" is not your typical musical, says Geer. "The scenes are actually kind of long, with eight, maybe nine pages of dialogue between musical numbers instead of the usual two or three pages. It was fun to work on that, because it goes against the grain."

Some of the scenes are touching, some are very funny. "That's probably because of Neil Simon. The comedy really comes through."

For Palmer, the show is dance-heavy, but she's having a blast. "Charity is a totally loveable, quirky, crazy character that's a lot of fun to play with."

The Community Players present "Sweet Charity" at the Jenks Junior High School Auditorium on Division Street in Pawtucket through April 13. Visit www.thecommunityplayers.org or call 401-726-6860 for tickets and information.