Charity Hope Valentine's boyfriend steals her purse and pushes her into a lake as a way of breaking up with her. Unfortunately, this isn't an unusual way for men to treat Charity, whose kindness often has been exploited. She's unlucky in love, but she won't give up hope in the musical Sweet Charity at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.
Charity (Shelbie Mac) is a hostess at the Fandango Ballroom, a seedy joint where men pay women to dance with them. Charity can't find a good man, but she gets support from co-workers Helene (Jessica Mixon) and Nickie (Kelly Fouchi). Dressed in flirty, fringe-trimmed dresses designed by Linda Fried, the women always lend a sympathetic ear. Mixon and Fouchi both give excellent performances as feisty, world-worn workers, balancing Charity's naivete. Fouchi is especially charismatic and brings a powerful voice to the performance. Mac gives Charity a mixture of warmth and pluckiness, and she's a strong singer with great comedic timing.
Originally choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, Sweet Charity was nominated for a Tony Award in 1966 and had a Broadway revival in 2005. It's a fun musical featuring the iconic "Big Spender" number. Directed by Gary Rucker, this production has its strongest and most memorable moments in the large group numbers choreographed by Caroline Cuseo. There's an especially mesmerizing nightclub scene in which the cast performs three consecutive glitzy and energetic routines.
Charity eventually meets a good guy, Oscar Lindquist (Ken Goode Jr.), and the two bond while trapped in an elevator. Eric Porter's set design shines, especially in this scene as a projection transforms the expansive stage into the tight quarters of an elevator. Oscar is shy and anxiety ridden, but Lindquist plays this to charming effect. When the relationship becomes serious, problems emerge. Charity initially told Oscar she works in a bank, not a dancehall. In his mind, she's a "poetic virgin." This isn't true, and the story heads into frustrating territory. In a moment of vulnerability, Charity tells Oscar the truth. He says he doesn't care and proposes to her. After she leaves her job and friends, he has second thoughts. He isn't kind, and Charity seems to be stuck with her old misfortune.
The notion that only "poetic virgins" can find love seems dated, but the show is entertaining. From the voices to the live band, it hits the right notes.