Hey, big spender, you don't need to spend much time with this Sweet Charity | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Hey, big spender, you don't need to spend much time with this Sweet Charity 

The Marriott's latest production is distinctly lackluster.

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click to enlarge Kenny Ingram and company

Kenny Ingram and company

Justin Barbin

Charity Hope Valentine, the sweet, psychologically wounded, eternally hopeful taxi dancer at the center of this 1966 Tony Award-winning musical, originally directed and choreographed on Broadway by Bob Fosse, is a hard character to get right. Play her too soft and she seems like a dope and pushover (she seems to have spent her life falling for lazy louts, like the guy at the start of the musical who takes her purse and pushes her into the lagoon in Central Park). Play her too hard and she becomes unlikable.

Anne Horak's Charity is very likable, but that's a problem too. From the first moment she dances onto the stage, she seems utterly charming and worthy of love; Horak doesn't give her enough room to change over the course of the play. And the play is all about change. Specifically, it is about Charity's journey from childish innocence (and cripplingly low self-esteem) to a firmer sense of her own strength and self-worth. Horack doesn't take us on that journey.

Nor does anyone else in this nice but lackluster production. Alex Goodrich, for example, doesn't move us as the man who finally shows Charity real love; instead he overplays his comic hand, ruining the subtle comedy in Neil Simon's book by telegraphing punch lines or otherwise working way too hard to show everyone he's being funny.

Alex Sanchez's choreography gracefully translates Fosse's iconic dance moves to the Marriott's in-the-round theater space. But his direction is less graceful. Simon's fine book is given short shrift, and neither the terrific choreography nor Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields's songs can carry the show alone.   v

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