Sweet slapstick 

Rep production ambitious and accomplished

click to enlarge Amy Sue Hardy plays Charity in The Repertory Theatre Companys Sweet Charity at the Fine Arts Center.
  • Amy Sue Hardy plays Charity in The Repertory Theatre Companys Sweet Charity at the Fine Arts Center.

According to the program notes, the original Broadway musical Sweet Charity was designed as a star vehicle for Gwen Verdon in 1966. Now, in its revival at the Fine Arts Center's Repertory Theatre Company, it is a star vehicle for Amy Sue Hardy, and Colorado Springs is darned lucky to have her. Ms. Hardy belts out no fewer than nine songs, appears in almost every scene of the 19 in the play, and delivers a performance full of slapstick and innocence, wonderfully reminiscent of Lucille Ball.

In a brief synopsis, Charity Hope Valentine (Hardy) is a dance hall hostess who is too sweet and innocent for her own good. The piece opens with her being jilted by her no-goodnik boyfriend, then follows her as she tries to put her heart back in order and allows herself to be romanced by Oscar (Kaleb Kohart). Meanwhile, her fellow dance hall hostesses alternately support her romantic quest and question her sanity for believing in yet another man.

While the whole show centers on Ms. Hardy, there's plenty more to praise in Sweet Charity in its choreography, musical direction and scenic design. In particular, the choreography of the large group numbers is outstanding. For example, old standby "Big Spender," as directed and choreographed by Zetta Alderman, is both expressive and visually interesting. A line of dance hall hostesses leaning up against a ballet bar express their obvious hatred of and boredom with their profession, as they languorously hang over the bar and ooze at the patrons.

Just as captivating, however, is the incredibly interesting visual texture they demonstrate, with legs akimbo, resting above or hanging below the bar. Combined with extremely diverse and colorful costumes, the scene would probably be captivating even without the delightful lyrics and terrific band.

Similarly, two other major musical numbers, one in a fancy bar and the other beneath the elevated train, are an amazing marriage of costumes, music and choreography, demonstrating director Tony Babin's and Alderman's familiarity with the musical vocabulary of the '60s (can you say Hair, anyone?).

While it is easy to be dazzled by Hardy, the great choreography and the well-thought-out costumes, there is a lot of additional backbone to this ambitious musical. In 19 scenes over almost three hours, there are scenes indoors, scenes outdoors, in boudoirs and restaurants and clubs. Experienced production designer Nancy Hankin lent considerable talent and imagination to the set, especially shining where she provides only the merest suggestion of a scene (a big square backdrop, for example, to show the elevator).

Director Babin's production hits just the right note for revivals, respecting the original work but still critiquing, ever so slightly, the era in which it was written. Working with a very talented team of actors, choreographers, musicians and designers, Babin undertook an ambitious production and it has paid off in sweet music, lively dancing and a visually and aurally captivating show.

-- Andrea Lucard


Sweet Charity

The Repertory Theatre Company

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Tickets $21-$25

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Feb. 22

Call 634-5583 for reservations


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