Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

A Sweet “Sweet Charity” – Candlelight Pavilion handles tough show with grace

The taxi dancers look for a "Big Spender" in Sweet Charity at the Candlelight Pavilion

The taxi dancers look for a “Big Spender” in Sweet Charity at the Candlelight Pavilion

The musical “Sweet Charity” falls into the unusual category of Broadway shows which have music far more famous than their productions. Co-opted for everything from advertisements to concerts and variety shows, songs like “Hey, Big Spender” and “If They Could See Me Now” have had enormous staying power, even as the plot they came from gets lost.

Perhaps this is because the show was crafted by director/choreographer Bob Fosse as a showcase for his extraordinarily talented wife, and muse, Gwen Verdon. Perhaps it comes from the fact the tale is adapted from a rather bleak Fellini film. In any case, the tale of plucky taxi dancer Charity Hope Valentine, whose optimism powers her through one romantic disaster after another, deserves another airing. Now it gets one, at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont.

To make “Sweet Charity” work, you have to honor the original. Large portions of the show are devoted to dance, and Fosse-esque dance at that. This means your dancers must be quality, something Candlelight pulls off. Choreographer Janet Renslow has a genuine feel for what the numbers have to look like, and those signature – and necessary – moves translate well onto this solid cast.

Tracy Pedretti is the ever-optimistic Charity

Tracy Pedretti is the ever-optimistic Charity

Tracy Pedretti makes a terrific Charity. She has just the right balance of naivete and bravado, and dances up a storm. As her two far more cynical buddies, Tiffany Reid and Eli Menendez create tough, but humorous contrast to Charity’s constant upbeat view. Along the way, they handle my personal favorite moment of the show “There’s Gotta Be Something Better than This” with great intensity.

As Oscar, the most likely, and yet also most likely to be scared off, of Charity’s love interests, Bobby Collins finds the charm in the character’s nerdiness. Other standouts include Kayla Ann Bullock, delightfully stereotypical as a famous movie star’s woman, Michael Worldly as a jazz-hippy-new age preacher, and John LaLonde as the movie star. Deborah Fauerbach provides some stunning moments as a featured dancer, as well.

Neil Dale’s tight direction keeps the story from becoming depressing, and integrates beautifully with the long dance sequences. Set designer Kerry Jones even manages to get a ferris wheel into the small Candlelight space.

In short, though this musical is not for the kiddies, it has a sort of “pull up your socks and move on” charm which, when combined with solid dancing and singing, propel it to a wry charm. You like Charity, and are kept from wallowing in the darker underpinnings of her life by her sunny nature. This is what this show has to offer: that sense that attitude can keep a disaster in perspective, even in an outwardly unfriendly world. We could all use a lesson or two in that area.

What: “Sweet Charity” When: Through May 5, opens for dinner 6 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays and for brunch at 11 a.m. for Saturday and Sunday matinees Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, 455 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont How Much: $53-$68 general, $25 children 12 and under, meal inclusive. Info: (909) 626-1254 ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com

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