Leigh Silverman, the director of the 50th anniversary Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity starring Sutton Foster, recently spoke about art being “a tool for education, and revolution, and resistance.” But it’s also, she said, great for escape: “People staggered into Sweet Charity desperate for community..and to be lifted away from this reality” the weekend after the election.
How else but escapist to characterize the musical about a “dance hall hostess” named Charity Hope Valentine who is always looking for true love, but never finding it. Its book by Neil Simon, based on the screenplay “Nights of Cabiria” by Federico Fellini, is dated and improbable, with a series of comic set pieces that, in the New Group’s production at the Signature Center at least, only occasionally land. But its score by Cy Coleman holds up, especially the evergreen songs — the bluesy “Big Spender” and the brassy “If My Friends Could See Me Now.” The choreographer Joshua Bergasse (On The Town), the spot-on five-piece band, and the design team – such as Clint Ramos (Tony winner for Eclipsed) and Derek McLane (Tony winner for 33 Variations) – all work together to scale down this big Broadway musical appropriately to the intimacy of a theater with little more than 200 seats.
Best of all, the performances are terrific.
Click on any photograph by Monique Carboni to see it enlarged