Aired on KSDS-FM on 9/9/16
RUN DATES: 9/3/16 – 11/20/16
VENUE: The Welk Theatre
It’s hard to believe the spunky 1966 musical, “Sweet Charity,” had its origins in the dark, 1957 Fellini film, “Nights of Cabiria.” But it certainly does perpetuate the old cliché of the whore with the heart of gold.
Charity Hope Valentine is just looking for love, but her job as dance-hall girl with benefits doesn’t exactly land her in the most facilitative circumstances. From the men she meets at the Fandango Ballroom to the lake overlook where she’s tossed over the edge, she gets hurt and dumped more than adored. Then she meets a neurotic, hyper-claustrophobic Nice Guy, whom she talks and sings through a harrowing elevator shutdown. Maybe her tide has turned. Or, maybe not, in a bittersweet, momentary nod to the superb source material, clumsily adapted by Neil Simon.
Charity’s hope springs eternal, and so does ours in the decidedly ‘60s, eye-popping, psychedelic production gleefully presented at the Welk Resort Theatre. Director/choreographer Ray Limon pays splendid homage to the Tony Award-winning choreography of Bob Fosse, with those iconic angular moves, impressively captured by an expert ensemble.
It’s 1966, and “Laugh-In” is invoked at every turn, though in fact, the TV show premiered a year after the musical. “Sock it to me” and “The Fickle Finger of Fate,” show up regularly, as does the loopy, hippie sensibility, especially in the ridiculous number celebrating an alt-church, “The Rhythm of Life.” There are too many silly moments like this, and too much empty fill. But we have to separate the show – flawed—from the production — charming.
Natalie Nucci has the ideal dance moves and insouciance for Charity, aided by her buddies, amusingly played by Adrian Mustain and Justin High. The look and sound are great: from the bi-level metallic set to the jazzy costumes and lighting. Just ignore the dated inanities of the story and focus on the compelling performances, excellent 5-piece band, strong vocals and vibrant visuals. And if you happen to remember “Laugh-In,” so much the funnier.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews