Presented by Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre,“Sweet Charity” offers up fun, some laughs, and a good time. When I saw the show, it was filled with a crowd of senior citizens, which is a great audience for a play deeply rooted in the 1960s. It brought back another era with its amazing costumes by Eva Grove and groovy dancing by choreographer Ilona Kessell. The lighting by Thomas P. Gardner set the tone for each scene. While the Fandango where Charity worked as a dance hall hostess obviously was red, the Pompeii Club was elegant, with a black background and twinkling lights.
…offers up fun, some laughs, and a good time.
Charity Hope Valentine (Becca Vourvoulas) is a hopeless romantic. She’s over the top enthusiastic and seemingly innocent which contradicts with her profession as a dance hall hostess. Basically, she provides dances to men for money, which I guess is the 1960s version of an exotic dancer (plus, they couldn’t exactly have exotic dancers in a musical). Charity is deeply in love with Charlie who straight out ignores her and eventually pushes her into a fountain and steals her purse. Oh, Charity…so naive. It’s not like he hadn’t already stolen her pocket money, forced her to buy him clothes, and stayed in her apartment.
But in true Charity style, she perks up when she encounters the famous actor Vittorio Vidal (Mark D. Macaluso), and he invites her to the Pompeii Club. The club is one of the highlights of the show with the actors in mod black and white with feathers, dancing a 60s bird-like dance. Vittorio and Charity’s conversation is in snippets with the actors dancing in between. She manages to get a hat, cane, and a signed photo from Vidal so the girls at the dance hall will all believe she spent the night with him. It doesn’t matter to her that she has to hide in the closet when Vidal’s girlfriend, Ursula (Lynn Tallman), comes in.
Charity meets painfully shy Oscar (Alexander Conte) in an elevator at the YMCA and manages to calm him down when the elevator breaks down. Although Charity’s enthusiasm doesn’t seem to blend well with Charlie or Vidal, she fits perfectly with Oscar, balancing out his awkwardness with her exuberance. They end up going to the Rhythm of Life Church which is a great way to display the full range of hippie 60s fashions (again props go to Eva Grove for her use of platform boots and bell bottoms).
“Sweet Charity” is definitely quirky, especially in the Rhythm of Life Church where the ‘preacher’ sings ‘clip your wings and fly to daddy’ and ‘hit the floor and crawl to daddy.’ It also sets feminism way back. Charity offers to ‘return the favor’ when Vidal gives her his hat. She and the dance hall girls dream of being receptionists, hat check girls, and assistant dental technicians. Not exactly the dreams of today’s little girls who can be anything they want to be. But we have to remember this is a different time—over 50 years ago—and (thankfully) the world is completely and totally different. We can appreciate just how far we’ve come.
Although Charity’s religion is love (without love, life has no purpose) which is somewhat naive, she does have some good advice. Singing ‘I’m the bravest individual I have ever met’ gives Oscar the confidence he needs to survive getting stuck in the elevator. I think it’s good advice for all of us.
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one intermission.
“Sweet Charity” runs through August 7, 2022 at Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre at CCBC Essex, 7201 Rossville Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21237. To for more information and to purchase tickets, please call the Box Office at 443.840.2787 or go online. Masks are required.