“Sweet Charity” opened on Broadway in 1966 and boasts some impressive names in the credits, with music by Cy Coleman, book by Neil Simon and original direction and choreography by Bob Fosse — choreography which, not surprisingly, won a Tony Award.
It’s not a show that’s produced widely in community theater, let alone in this area, and director Richard Roe took a chance in bringing it to the Schenectady Light Opera Company stage as the final show of its 2012-13 season.
The show centers around Charity, a dance-hall girl in New York City who wants nothing more than for someone to love her. Her desperate need for this leads her to romances with men who are not good matches. With this description alone, it is obvious the show is a bit dated; although there still may be plenty of people who are driven by this desire today, it’s not as accepted in a culture that hails strength and independence and preaches “love yourself first, and love for others will follow.”
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through May 19
HOW MUCH: $28-$22
MORE INFO: 877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org
Amanda Jo Marshall, as Charity, has a strong voice and dances well, but her acting, perhaps, is where she is weakest. Charity needs a constantly sunny disposition and an inner sweetness for the character to work; Marshall sometimes seemed a little lost, which was a shame, as the show lives and dies on her performance.
The show is extremely dance-heavy, and the dance numbers were all over the board. Some were extremely successful — especially “Big Spender” and “Rich Man’s Frug” — while others were a little muddled, and staging was an issue. “I Love to Cry at Weddings,” for example, just seemed to have too many people on stage to work.
The supporting cast was, for the most part, good. The two standouts were Heather D’Arcy and Christine Marcella as Charity’s no-nonsense co-workers, Helene and Nickie. Their voices and choreography were in perfect sync — perhaps not a surprise, as D’Arcy was one of the choreographers — and their characters were the most believable — dance-hall girls who’d gotten hard from years on the job, but who still held a slight hope that someday there might be something better than this out there for them.
Patricia Casey’s costumes were a special treat. Beautiful period patterns and colors, with many costume changes, turned the actors into a riot of ’60s nostalgia, and it was so much fun to watch. The scene in the Fandango Ballroom, with the black-and-white color palette, was especially eye-catching.
Overall, it was perhaps an uneven production. The show is a little light on story and quite heavy on dance, so this might be more a function of the writing than this production itself. But for the fact it’s a risk-taking production, and something you’re not likely to see anytime soon, it’s worth catching.