By Taylor Jaseph, May 3, 2022
Cal Poly Pomona’s music department danced on stage in the recital hall with the Cal Poly Pomona Music Theatre Workshop’s rendition of the musical “Sweet Charity.” The show ran from April 21 to April 23.
Written by Neil Simon, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, “Sweet Charity” follows the main character Charity’s misadventures in love. Love is her religion, and she goes to church a lot.
Leilani Scott Young plays Charity Hope Valentine, bringing to life Charity’s earnest and trusting personality. Young’s expressive line deliveries and genuine joy of being on stage made her the perfect fit to play the fun-loving Charity.
The rest of the cast, most playing two or three roles, helped visualize and tell the story of “Sweet Charity.” With stunning synchronized dance sequences and wonderful songs, it was easy to enjoy being an audience member, even with a slippery stage and escaping costumes.
The cast of “Sweet Charity” kept the play moving in a manner where the audience didn’t know the face plant wasn’t on purpose. The case of the missing top hat encouraged audience participation during Charity’s dance number, eliciting more laughs as Young goes, “Where’s my hat?” There was even a flying handbag, kicked across the stage and landing perfectly at Charity’s feet.
It’s easy to enjoy the musical when the titular character is displayed as naturally effervescent, extroverted and just a little quirky. It will be hard to forget Charity having to hide in the closet of Vittorio Vidal as he tries to win back his love, Ursula. I will never forget watching Vittorio slip Charity that cold beer she requested through the closet door.
Director and Producer Susan Ali did well in telling her version of the musical. It was amusing watching the ice cream vendor sell his wares on a unicycle, everyone dismissing the fact that Charity was drowning in the lake. I mean, how many musicals have you seen with a unicycle?
The music was on point, a personal favorite song being “Big Spender” with Charity’s four dance hall colleagues pulling off the show-stopping musical number with ease. “Bravest Individual” sung by Charity and Oscar was entertaining, especially as Charity tries to calm down Oscar as they’re stuck in an elevator.
Following Charity from the beginning is a whirlwind. We see her throw herself at Charlie and for that she gets her purse stolen and pushed in the lake. She happens upon the movie star Vittorio Vidal in a fight with his girlfriend, Ursula, and then becomes his date at a club, gets taken back to Vittorio’s apartment, to find he is still clearly in love with Ursula.
Charity helps them get back together while hiding in his closet, showing Ursula that Vittorio didn’t take a girl back to his apartment. Then finally running into the shy and nervous Oscar, a guy completely different than who Charity typically goes for. She deals with his panic attack in an elevator, and I lost it when Oscar asked Charity her weight because he’s worried about the weight limit.
Oscar then invites Charity out to a new church group as a date. Although, church is a very loose term for the Rhythm of Life Church, but we get the musical title from the scene of Daddy Brubeck’s church by Oscar calling Charity his sweet Charity after the date.
We also get the miscommunication that Oscar guessed Charity works in a bank and she doesn’t tell him that she’s actually a taxi dancer. Oscar believes Charity is this pure girl, when in fact she is not. Even after learning her profession, Oscar asks her to marry him, but after attending a going away party with Charity’s coworkers, the two return to the park of the first scene.
I watch with a sense of foreboding, seeing Oscar act nervous around Charity. I knew what he was going to do and wasn’t surprised when he broke off the marriage, but my lack of surprise didn’t mean I accepted Oscar’s rejection peacefully. Oh no, I was angry when he broke up with her and had to watch Charity beg him not to leave for. Then I was furious when he pushed her in the lake to get away from her. The only good thing about this was that Charity at least kept her purse.
With a visit from the Good Faerie, looking grimmer than the Brothers Grimm and smoking a cigarette, Charity lives hopefully ever after while the audience laughs at the full circle of Charity’s misfortune.
I went into the musical with high hopes, and I was not disappointed. It had me laughing like a maniac while the two hours seemed to be only 15 minutes. With the cast being a triple threat in dancing, singing and witty line deliveries, “Sweet Charity” definitely the sweet spot.
Feature image by Taylor Jaspeh
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