Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Dancing Shines in Cy Coleman/Dorothy Field's Sweet Charity
The American Musical Theatre of San Jose recently presented that brat pack favorite Molly Ringwald in the touring version of Cy Coleman, Dorothy Field and Neil Simon's zippy Sweet Charity. The musical was originally created by Bob Fosse for this wife, the formidable dancer Gwen Verdon. I saw the original at the Palace Theatre during the winter of 1966 and this was one hell of a dancing musical. I also saw the revival at the Minskoff Theatre during the summer of 1986 with Debbie Allen taking over the role of Charity, as well as Shirley MacLaine going through her paces at Universal for the film.
Now, I am the first to admit that Molly Ringwald is no dancer. However, what she lacks in dance, she makes up in personality. She is a born comedian and she plays Charity that way. Also, her singing voice is fairly good. Director Scott Faris is using great energetic dancers to make this still a good dancing musical. For example, the number "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" has vibrant dancers Amanda Watkins and Kisha Howard bringing down the house while Molly sits off stage left to watch.
Molly plays the lead role more like Giulietta Masina in Fellini's Night of Cabiria, and Giulietta Masina was no dancer in that film. Ringwald handles the melodies of Coleman and lyrics of Field very adroitly. There is conviction in her voice when singing such songs as "You Should See Yourself" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now." She does well with "I'm a Brass Band" and leaves center stage to allow the exciting dancers to take over the whiz bang choreography of Wayne Cilento. This is the high point of the two hour and thirty minute musical.
This is not a perfect production. The big number "The Rhythm of Life" is lifeless, due to David as Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck. He is just a little too weak to sing this powerful song. "Rich Man's Frug" is done especially well and the scene involving Charity's "night" with Vittorio Vidal in his apartment is a comic delight. Molly's timing is perfect in this hilarious scene.
Guy Adkins, who played the dancer in the ACT/Seattle Rep production of The Time Of Your Life, is uproarious as the shy Oscar in the elevator scene. He climbs the wall and dissolves into the floor of the tiny elevator set suspended over the stage. It is a shame that that he does not have a solo dance. Aaron Ramey sports a good Italian accent for his role as Vittorio Vidal and has good singing chops for "Too Many Tomorrows." Richard Ruiz, who plays the hard-hitting manager of the dance club, belts out "I Love to Cry at Weddings" in his great sweet tenor voice. Amanda Watkins and Kisha Howard are two vivacious, sensual dancers in the rooftop scene. They also have great singing voices.
William Ivey Long has designed seedy-sensual dresses for the female dancers that look like something out of West Side Story . However, they show off good body moves in the choreographed scenes. The male dancers are terrific and have all the right Fosse moves. Scott Pask's sets are excellent, and he uses great bold panels along with David Grill's flashing lights to set up various scenes. Director Scott Faris keeps the action flowing with little or no dull spots.
Sweet Charity played through October 1 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd, San Jose. Their next production is Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I with Debbie Boone and Francis Jue.
For more information on this tour, visit www.broadwayacrossamerica.com.