Sweet Charity Theater Review - The Madrid Theater Kicks Up Its Heels with Another Musical Classic

It’s a bit amusing to do a random canvas of the audience to ask your fellow audience members if they have seen the play you are attending before now. In the case of Sweet Charity, the current professional production running at the Madrid Theater in Canoga Park, I found that of the dozen people I asked were split exactly into two groups: those who had seen it before and those who just knew the music. Whether you are a fan of the Neil Simon / Cy Coleman collaboration, singing along with each note, or a casual theater-goer who forgot that they still do overtures in musical theater, Sweet Charity tells a timeless story of a dream-filled girl with, who keeps looking for love in all the wrong places.

(l to r) Sara Andreas, Jaclyn Miller & Chelsey Whitelock in "Sweet Charity"

The girl is Charity Hope Valentine (Jaclyn Miller) whom we meet while she is in the throes of love yet again. She’s all ready to run away with this latest guy, until the he dumps her (by literally dumping her into the lake) and steals her purse. That’s kind of the story of Charity’s life. She never learns, her indomitable spirit won’t let her recognize permanent defeat. Despite the naysayers at the dance hall where she works, Charity knows she will find love one day. Our heroine spends an unbelievable night in the closet of a movie star and a less than magical appointment with a career counselor before she finally finds herself trapped in an elevator with someone who thinks she is the girl of his dreams. Finally, happily ever after is within her reach with the nervous, but nice accountant Oscar Lindquist (Stephen Vendette), maybe… 

Your mind-mannered reviewer fell into the group of spectators who only knew the music from the show. I knew that Sweet Charity was the role that solidified the careers of women like Shirley MacLaine and Debbie Allen. Jaclyn Miller does a great job of carrying on that fine tradition. Her performance was a pleasure to watch as she imbued Charity with the sincerity, vivaciousness and vulnerability that the role is known for. Miller’s Charity is joyous and self-deprecating with body language that is simultaneously humorous and graceful, in action and in dance. Somebody get that woman a bigger stage!

Stephen Vendette & Jaclyn Miller in "Sweet Charity"

The company of Sweet Charity is solid. Musical Director Paul Taylor makes splendid use of the strong vocalists at his disposal this year. The full and balance harmonies were more than a match for the 11- piece pit orchestra in this production. The featured vocalists were very good and the choral moments were very nicely layered and finely tuned (I’m still a sucker for a three part harmony). The number of the night for me had to be Rhythm of Life, the big second act company number featuring Big Daddy Brubeck (show choreographer Gerry McIntyre). The musical number was perfect combination of lyrics and fun staging. Not to mention, the thought of yesteryear’s foot high Afros and free love Hippies is sure to make anyone smile.

The economical use of the stage was good, leaving the only permanent suggestions of city at the perimeters of the stage’s proscenium. Loved the flashing neon sign giving the play by play for audience members who can’t keep up. Great cigarette bit in the closet. This was a fun show with music, fun and goofball comedy for the whole family. Well done director Joe Joyce.

Now that I have seen Sweet Charity, I'll confess that it probably won’t break my top ten favorite musicals of all time; but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this production again.

Golden Performing Arts Center presents Sweet Charity at The Madrid Theater on Canoga Park every weekend through July 27, 2008.

For more information call: 818-887-9178.

[email protected]

Photo Credit: Michele Young

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