When Charity Hope Valentine is asked why she believes in love, she replies, “You have to have some religion.” In “Sweet Charity,” a show replete with good lines, after all Neil Simon wrote the musical’s book, this expression lies at the heart of the story.
However, audiences who have seen the 1969 movie and are seeing the show now at Marriott Theatre, will also catch that the theme that frames the show is Charity’s middle name, Hope.
No matter how often she is disappointed, Charity, a dance-hall hostess, rebounds. Instead of following the typical “and they lived happily ever after,” in “Sweet Charity” she moves forward, “hopefully.”
Audiences can also expect that a musical directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse for Broadway and the film and that is staged by Marriott, a theatre known for producing big dance numbers, will have exciting dance sequences.
First off is a wonderfully degenerate-styled “Big Spender” number performed by Charity’s cohorts Nickie, Helene and company in their Fandango Ballroom workplace.
Then, when Charity bumps into film star Vittorio Videl there is “Rich Man’s Frug” with “The Aloof,” “The Heavyweight” and “The Big Finish” which appear on four video screens similar to the way the film introduce Fosse’s three sophisticated nightclub dance numbers.
With a bow to Fosse but incorporating his own interpretation, director/choreographer Alex Sanchez reflects the sequences with delightfully exaggerated Noel Coward style.
Once back in Vittorio’s glamorous apartment, Charity, exuberantly played by Broadway and regional theater regular Ann Horak, does a terrific rendition of “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”
Vittorio, charmingly interpreted by Broadway star Adam Jacobs (“Aladdin,” Simba in “The Lion King”), beautifully sings “Too Many Tomorrows,” before girlfriend Ursula (Alexandra Palkovic) knocks on the door.
A fun scene is Charity listening, eating and drinking in the closet where she ducked when Ursula came to call.
But one of the show’s best scenes is when Charity and Oscar Lindquist, brilliantly played by Alex Goodrich, meet in an elevator that gets momentarily stuck.
Charity tries to calm Oscar, an uptight guy who has claustrophobia. Act I ends when the lights go out – in the elevator and theatre.
Much of Act II is their courtship, including a stop at a church where Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck (no kidding) leads a congregation of hippies.
Of course the song “The Rhythm of Life” belongs to Sammy Davis Jr. who played Daddy Brubeck in the film, but Broadway star Kenny Ingram (“The Lion King”) and company really put over the great dance and song number.
Although Charity is the main character, her two best friends from the dance hall, Nickie (Dani Spieler) and Helene (Natonia Monet) have important, call-it-like-it-is roles and excellent voices.
An overlooked character except as a tattoo on Charity’s arm is the dark- glasses-wearing, emotionless Charlie by Liam Quealy.
Rounding off the main characters is ballroom boss Herman. Portrayed by Chicago and Marriott veteran Terry Hamilton, Herman shows off his own personality in “I Love to Cry at Weddings.”
With lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by Cy Coleman, along with Simon’s clever lines and needy characters, “Sweet Charity” has become a musical theatre classic.
On the plus side, the acting is excellent, Mieka van der Ploeg’s costumes perfectly set the musical’s tone and period and Sanchez was smart to end the show with Charity’s reprisal of “I’m the Bravest Individual” to acknowledge that times have changed since it was on Broadway and turned into a film
My problem with the show is that it is too long and even with the modification, it still is dated. But the Marriott version is still a good choice for its fine dance and song numbers.
DETAILS: “Sweet Charity is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire through Oct. 28, 2018. Running time is 2 hrs, 40 min. For tickets and other information call (847) 534-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago