RECOMMENDED Fosse Rocks It in the Lincolnshire
The original Orpheum Dance Palace in New York City closed in 1964. But to this day dime-a-dance halls still exist across the country, most now in Los Angeles, catering to a large community of immigrant men lonely for at least a minute of intimacy. Now there’s a dance hall at the Marriott Theatre.
Charity Hope Valentine – a Sucker for Love
Sweet Charity, book by Neal Simon, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, music by Cy Coleman, takes us inside the dance hall and into the heart of a most unlikely dancer, Charity Hope Valentine—a sucker for love, working in a world of lust. Transparent white-wash is applied to the club environment. The girls look clean but seductive; the men slick but not dangerous. Beyond the dance sex is for sale, but not from Charity who gives it away.
Bob Fosse’s choreography inspires Alex Sanchez
Broadway great, Bob Fosse conceived, staged and choregraphed the original NY show. Alex Sanchez, directed and choreographed Marriott’s production. He successfully retained the Fosse style, though challenged by the Marriott Theater’s small square stage. Because the audience is seated on all four sides, every patron had dancers facing them throughout the musical numbers. At the same time, when an ensemble pattern was used, we were able to enjoy the precision impact of the group from the seventh row. The dancers embraced the physical demands of Fosse-dance.
Strong supporting cast in Sweet Charity
In this writer’s view, Sweet Charity has an especially strong supporting cast, with outstanding cameo performances. Alex Goodrich as Charity’s last love gave a bravura comic performance, with over-the-top hysteria in a stalled elevator, yet believable vulnerability as he gave in to fear and social pressure.
Adam Jacobs wore his tragi-comic role as Vittorio Videl like a shiny shark-skin suit. He is Charity’s Mr. Big. It’s his luxury suite that inspires her signature song, “If They Could See Me Now”. Jacobs's operatic tenor in Too Many Tomorrows was an exciting contrast to the show tunes. The audience cheered.
Terry Hamilton as Herman, owner of the dance hall, knows time is money and corrals his girls accordingly. His raucous ensemble number I Love to Cry at Weddings introduces the denouement of Charity’s story.
Kenny Ingram’s star cameo as Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck is romping-stomping fun. It’s under the Brooklyn Bridge, where Daddy and the ensemble introduce us to a new religion in The Rhythm of Life. The ensemble is costumed in full 60’s hippy gear. Daddy pontificates from a wheeled platform as the worshipers writhe in ecstasy. (Note: This laugh out loud scene precurses Joseph Papp’s production at the Public Theater of Hair, which premiered in 1967. Sweet Charity was first produced in 1966. Papp and Fosse were tight bros from their military time together.)
Ann Horak as Charity Gives Her All
Charity, played by Ann Horak, is the center post of Sweet Charity. She is in most scenes, singing, dancing, lamenting, hamming it up. Horak gave her all. I’m a Brass Band, with Charity and the ensemble, brought cheers from the supportive audience. However in this writer’s view she was simply miscast-- lacking the vinegar edge of Charity portrayals one may be accustomed to in other productions of this work. Horak is lovely, but more in the mode of a North Shore deb; the role of Charity needs more sass and lower class.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run.