Friday, June 17, 2005

SWEET AND SOUR: The central problem with the current Broadway revival of Sweet Charity can be summed up with one word-"-pop." This is precisely the sort of show that's supposed to pop off the stage, grab the audience by the lapels, and make the audience love it. There are moments when that “pop” happens, most notably in Denis O'Hare's performance as dweeby accountant Oscar and in the “I Love To Cry at Weddings” number. But Charity herself never pops, and that's where the show ultimately fails.

You've probably read or heard about Christina Applegate's travails to play the role of Charity. First, Marisa Tomei and Jane Krakowski had the part before her. Only asfter they dropped out did Applegate get a chance. Then, during the show's tryout run in Boston, Applegate fractured her foot, and it didn't look like she could open the show. The show was cancelled, but due to Applegate's efforts, got put back on the calendar. It was the perfect setup for a fairy tale ending if Applegate triumphed. Unfortunately, she doesn't. Her comic timing and physical comedy are (unsurprisingly) top-notch, and her dancing is technically very good, though not particularly interesting. The problem's with the singing. Charity has to be able to stand on stage alone and command the theatre with her voice and presence for the show to work, and Applegate just can't do that. She's not helped by her costume, a red dress that's obviously intended to pop, but due to lighting and staging, never does.

The show itself has several problems of its own--it doesn't really get going until the leading man appears in the last scene of Act I, the resolute ambiguity of the (apparently new) ending doesn't give the audience any sense of completion, and the Act II opener, “The Rhythm of Life,” has not aged well.

All that said, I still enjoyed myself. It's a show where people are clearly passionate about what they're doing, and I found it far better than the listless La Cage revival that beat it for Best Revival at the Tonys. I just wonder if there could have been a better show with someone else in the lead (I think Krakowski would have been great, and to suggest a Broadway couple--Amy Spanger as Charity and Michael C. Hall as Oscar).

Also, a couple of reality TV related notes. First, I saw a TAR on GSN cabtop on 8th Avenue, indicating that the airing will begin in a few short weeks. Second, on the A train downtown, there was a guy wearing his "Project Runway: Backstage Access" pass--perhaps filming has already begun.

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