Sweet Charity

The touring production that Molly Ringwald is currently heading might be more aptly called Semi-Sweet Charity. Ringwald brings her appealing persona (seem by millions in film, transferring nicely to stage), energy, earnestness, and pleasing singing voice. Unfortunately, Charity has traditionally been a dancer's role, and Ringwald has extremely limited abilities in that department. Sometimes a double-threat can play a triple-threat part, but it doesn't work well in this show - there are too many highlight spots in which Charity should dazzle us with footwork. The fact that Ringwald is surrounded by a very talented supporting cast and ensemble - particularly in that department of dance - only makes her shortcoming more obvious.

Originally a smash hit (with Gwen Verdon in the title role) on Broadway in 1966, Sweet Charity follows down on her luck Charity Hope Valentine (Ringwald), a good-hearted taxi-dancer who gets dumped by every boyfriend, and dumped on by life; she can't seem to find the love she has been seeking all her life. "The Fan-Dango Ballroom" where Charity and friends, including Nickie (Amanda Watkins) and Helene (Francesca Harper), work is a dismal and seedy place. A chance meeting with high-strung tax accountant Oscar Lindquist (Guy Adkins) in a stuck elevator at the 92nd Street Y looks to be Charity's chance for happiness, but she just can't seem to win.

Ringwald's Charity is appropriately unrefined and simple-minded, but also sweet and kind. It's easy to root for her, especially once she meets the hapless and introverted Oscar. Adkins is superb when Oscar suffers a claustrophobic fit, confined to the small elevator as Charity tries to calm him down. Lithe and limber, he creeps along the walls and does all he can to cope with the confinement in his own little convulsive dance. Adkins' dance abilities are charming, and he has a very solid singing voice, plus personality to spare. He is a real discovery in this production.

Charity also encounters European film star Vittorio Vidal (Aaron Ramey), in mid-breakup with his beautiful mistress Ursula (Jessica Leigh Brown). After Charity comes to Vittorio's assistance in making Ursula jealous, he invites her to his apartment and they strike up an unusual friendship. All three actors pull off a comedic highlight of the show when Ursula arrives to make up with Vittorio, and Charity must hide in the closet (while still trying to drink her beer and smoke a cigarette).

Nickie and Helene also provide comedy moments - and some great dance moves. Watkins is particularly successful in fleshing out the sassy Latino Nickie - she is firey and charismatic. These two join a tremendous ensemble in presenting some enjoyable choreography by Wayne Cilento. "Rich Man's Frug" is a classic dance scene and, though the pace seems unusually slow in this and other musical sections of the show, it's well-performed here.

Luckily for all, the signature songs of Sweet Charity succeed: "Big Spender" is nearly Cabaretish and delivered with a bang by the supporting and ensemble cast; Ringwald provides a charming "If My Friends Could See Me Now" from Vittorio's apartment; "I'm the Bravest Individual" is fun and sweet with Adkins and Ringwald; Adkins dazzles with "Sweet Charity"; and Ringwald mines the poignancy of "Where Am I Going."

NETworks Presentations, LLC presents Sweet Charity, the national tour, going next to Baltimore MD, Nashville TN, San Antonio TX, Houston TX, and Tempe AZ.

See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.

-- Ann Miner

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