Sweet Charity

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Book by Neil Simon.

Music by Cy Coleman.

Lyrics by Dorothy Fields.

Based on an original screenplay by Frederico Fellini,

Tullio Pinelli and Enno Flaiano.

Directed by Michael Leeds.

Can a Dance-hall Hostess Find True Love? And Does She Need It?

How interesting it would be to discover how many enjoy Sweet Charity as a light, fluffy, escapist musical, while still others may be struck by a culminating moral message of independence. While this is not as unique now as it might have been when the play first opened, it has a special significance today — following the shocking election upset.. At the risk of creating a spoiler, there was something quite provocative and pertinent about Charity, standing on her own, not needing a man to provide her happiness at play’s end. It is certainly a feminist affirmation.

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Whatever the interpretation and in spite of some outdated moments in this charming 50-year-old musical, high praise must go to blond, lithesome Kristina Hugel as a determined Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess who longs to for love and finds it in all the wrong places. Richard Fleur, playing her final lover, the neurotic Oscar Lindquist, is a perfect foil.

Hugel can really put across a song — and a dance — and would be an asset to any stage. She and the excellent 17-member cast are well served by choreographer Danny Durr, who builds on Fosse’s themes and movements to create singular, show-stopping numbers. One of the best has Hugel snapping a shiny, black top hat in rhythm with her movements.

One of the best scenes is a claustrophobic sequence when she and LaFleur are trapped in an elevator. Here she provides the strength to counter his claustrophobia.  Later, when they are stuck high in the air on a Ferris wheel, their positions are reversed. He provides the courage to surmount her fear of heights. These two scenes provide a neat contrast as well as presenting the progression of their promising relationship.

Songs take on a life of their own, separate from the musical and include such familiar numbers as “Big Spender,”and “If my Friends Could See me Now.”

As always, Stage Door, deserves praise for clever set design and staging. Kudos to set designer Michael McClain.

Recommended.

Beverly Friend, PHD, Member American Theaters Assn,.

Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl 33065.www.stagedoorfl.org  954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 11.