Sweet Charity: pre-feminist concept captured in musical comedy
PC: Justin Barbin and Michael Brosilow.

Sweet Charity: pre-feminist concept captured in musical comedy

A musical comedy, “Sweet Charity,” based on the book by Neil Simon, earned nine Tony awards since its premiere on Broadway over 50 years ago. Originally choreographed and directed by the world-famous Bob Fosse, the musical is centric in the experiences of Charity Hope Valentine—a hostess at a dance club stuck in the innards of New York City, in the sixties.

Subtle feminist motifs arise as the job description of Charity and her friends are expressed in the musical. Charity and her friends are to make small talk, dance and smile at the “big spenders” of the dance club. The women are grabbed and objectified by the “big spenders” of the club, and they dream of escaping these circumstances. However, Charity remains naïve about the men she is involved with throughout the musical.

The cast enthusiastically portrays each of their own characters individually. This is most true in the dance scene “Rhythm of Life,” which ultimately changes the ambiance into a groovy, trippy scene. Charity continues to execute her own performance amid the other talented dancers and singers. In addition, we continue to see gender dynamics throughout this scene as “Big Daddy” leads the scene. Big Daddy (Daddy Brubeck) is best described as the hip and edgy preacher who leads the revival of the unorthodox church “Rhythm of life.”

As we close the first act, we experience the full throttle of Patti Garwood’s orchestra. The orchestra also perfectly couples the big Fosse dance numbers. The lighting showcased the dancers at their height, furthering the dazzling aura that the director intended.

I would not deem Charity “woke” as they say. Although I did mention how I had seen feminist motifs exemplified in certain scenes, Valentine’s character in itself should be considered pre-feminist. At the end of the musical, Charity is pushed into a lake by her boyfriend, Oscar, who ultimately cannot love her back because of her profession. The closing scene does not offer any tangible analysis surrounding sexuality, sex work and/or sex workers that would otherwise make it a pro-feminist musical. The closing of the play feels as if Charity was being punished for wanted to give up her lifestyle for an exclusive relationship with Oscar. The play does not celebrate Charity’s promiscuity as a rebellious archetype to the status quo but rather deems her not worthy of love because of her past with numerous lovers.

I would recommend this musical to anyone who enjoyed upbeat, dance-heavy performances in the 1960’s style. In this particular performance, Anne Horak plays Charity Hope Valentine and Alex Goodrich plays Oscar Lindquist. Outstanding performances go to Natonia Monet playing Helene and the whole ensemble cast. Directed and choreographed by Alex Sanchez and scored by Cy Coleman, “Sweet Charity” will run until the 28th of October at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Illinois.