She’s just a girl in love with love. Swipe right for the Tony award-winning, romantic musical dramedy instilled with a dose of cynicism, Sweet Charity. Unforeseen high jinks and adventures find Charity as she makes her way through what can be a harsh reality. Before Julia Roberts stepped onto the L.A. streets in the popular film, Pretty Woman, Charity wondered Central Park. Both have a heart of gold.
With music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, book by Neil Simon, and directed by Nathan Fogg, Hingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) continues Sweet Charity through Sunday, May 5 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts. This show is for mature audiences and not for young children. Click here for more information and tickets.
Sweet Charity is one of those rare opportunities to witness a collaboration featuring theatrical icons playwright Neil Simon and director and choreographer Bob Fosse. Oh yes, and Fosse’s then wife, muse, and dance dynamo Gwen Verdon starred in the musical’s stage debut in the 60s.
Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s influence is still as lively as ever as FX continues Fosse/Verdon, a biographical miniseries starring Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon. Coincidentally, Fosse/Verdon also covers in part the making of Sweet Charity. Fosse Fever has certainly been evident on the South Shore of Massachusetts as two adaptations of Chicago recently took the stage in close succession.
Perhaps it’s the Neil Simon influence, but Sweet Charity seems to tread on the lighter side of Fosse’s popular works. It has its edgy moments and not for everyone, but Sweet Charity depends much more on humor than darkness. Though Pretty Woman might be a beloved, yet formulaic tale, Sweet Charity is less predictable and not a by-the-numbers romantic comedy. The costumes, by Kathryn Ridder and company, are fitted and flashy and the dialogue is snappy and at times, charming. At one point, Emilee Leahy as Charity sings, “You’re so strong, you have muscles you don’t need.”
After portraying resourceful criminal Velma Kelly in Massasoit Theatre Company’s production of Chicago, Emilee Leahy delivers a breezier performance as coy yet sweet, aware and yet sometimes naïve, hopeful and pensive Charity Hope Valentine. Charity can be a poor judge of character, but Leahy’s Charity proves to be worth rooting for. She has a pliable vocal range and is certainly light on her feet as she slips into a spontaneous tap routine featuring the famous number, If They Could See Me Now, decked out with a signature Fosse top hat and cane.
Speaking of dance, Sweet Charity offers an array of Fosse-inspired dance sequences, tinged with retro flair. Choreographer Samantha-Brior Jones, Music Director Sandee Brayton, and Dance Captain Mary Donahue turn up the heat with sharp and distinctive choreography as the Fan-dango Ballroom dancers perform a fierce, steamy, and hip shaking Hey Big Spender. The sweeping, sophisticated, 60s-inspired Rich Man’s Frug featuring Pompeii Club dancers in all-black has a classic vibe to it while Rhythm of Life is an outrageous, seemingly spiritual journey.
The characters that Charity encounter seem a bit melodramatic, showing it doesn’t take itself too seriously. With great New York accents, Kristen Annese as Nickie and Lindsay Warwick as Helene are a plucky, street smart comedy duo. Their rendition of Baby Dream Your Dream has a lot of reassuring sass and they share playful, if at times mildly-snarky camaraderie with Charity.
Leah Shiels as Ursula and Rob Buckel-Gillis as Vittorio make an exotic celebrity pair, decked out in shimmering attire. Buckel-Gillis delivers a beautiful rendition of Too Many Tomorrows. Tony Light is comical as Oscar, a panicked claustrophobic. Shirtless and in suspenders, Rylan Vachon delivers a wildly energetic, off-the-wall performance as zany preacher Daddy Brubeck. Mike Warner as Herman also delivers some laughs, but keep an eye on his T-shirts. Trust me.
Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Sweet Charity on Saturday, May 4 and a Sunday matinee on May 5 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and for tickets. Tickets are also available at the door. Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook and click here to learn how to support HCMT’s upcoming productions.