SWEET CHARITY by Secondline Productions is frighteningly unbalanced. Fans of the film version of the musical are want to flock to the production to relive the fantastic songs live, and hope to catch a fun romp in this seldom produced Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields, Neil Simon show from ‘way back when’ in 1966. Unfortunately, design choices, financial limitations, and certain bland performances take this charming throwback and force it to life, shoving it into gear after gear without bothering to engage the clutch.
The show is not without moments of triumph… The richness and fun of the dance numbers at the ‘ritzy’ club took full advantage of the cast, filling the stage and energizing the audience. Charity, Nickie, and Helene’s There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This works wonderfully. The indication of a ride on the subway made real by the hand straps and passengers is a nice moment. Charity and Oscar’s scene at the Mexican restaurant is heartbreaking, truthful, and sincere.
SWEET CHARITY is a tricky production to bring to life. Finding the right balance in some of the characters is tough fifty years on, when tastes and styles have changed. Just as Brooke Seguin’s Charity settles in to a great, believable presence, Vittorio comes off as an incompetent over actor off of the screen. Daddy, supposedly a tremendously charismatic leader, is swallowed up by the cast in The Rhythm Of Life, offering up a bland wisp of what could have been a stunning show stopper of a performance.
This unevenness is seen in most of the elements of the show. Sometimes the sets are unnoticeable, servicing the action. At other times they come off as so inexpensive and cheesy that they are visually distracting. The decision to place all of the dance hall girls in white lingerie is a unifying touch, but they come off as cheap and bland- just like Vittorio’s ten dollar top hat. It is impossible for the quality of the vocal presence of the cast to overcome deficiencies that border on the low rung of community theater. It is just as difficult for an audience to truly engage in suspension of disbelief.
All in all, an audience really needing a fix of SWEET CHARITY in the flesh will enjoy their time, but this production suffers from an overwhelming lack of cohesive vision, or perhaps shows the scars of really rough behind the scenes troubles for the creative team. Which is a shame. After all, down deep, aren’t we all just suckers for love?