My dream of the dance hall girl with the heart of gold crumbled last night.
I went San Jose to see the touring production of Sweet Charity based on last year’s Broadway revival. I was excited to see star Molly Ringwald (“Oh, look, Fred! She’s got her boobies!” — Sixteen Candles), but what really excited me was seeing the musical live on stage for the first time.
Before last night I had only ever seen the mostly terrible Bob Fosse-directed movie version starring Shirley MacLaine (love you, Shirley, but the movie’s a clunker). I know the original cast album with Gwen Verdon well enough to know that the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh score has some real treasures, “Big Spender,” “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” and “Baby, Dream Your Dream” among them.
But what I didn’t know is that Sweet Charity is just not a very good show. The source material, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria starring the incomparable Giulietta Masina, is so good that even a wan copy could still pack some punch. Well, not in Neil Simon’s surprisingly weak and unfunny adaptation.
And the score has some real duds. I mean, come on people, “You Should See Yourself,” “Charity’s Soliloquy,” “Too Many Tomorrows,” “I’m the Bravest Individual,” “Sweet Charity” (much better in another form as “You Wanna Bet”), “I’m a Brass Band” and “I Love to Cry at Weddings” are lame. I didn’t mention “The Rhythm of Life” because that deserves special condemnation all its own. That is a TERRIBLE song and a terrible scene. I vote to strike it from the record.
As for Miss Molly, she’s adorable and a real trouper, but she doesn’t have that special Broadway something. The role of Charity requires some real dazzle, and Molly’s sweet, but in a girl-next-door kind of way, which may be more effective on screen than on stage.
Fun, laughs, good times? Well, almost.
P.S. Anybody up for Breakfast Club: The Musical?