Book by Neil Simon. Based on the screenplay of Nights of Cabiria by Fellini, Pinelli and Flaiano. Lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Music by Cy Coleman. The original Broadway production opened on 29 January 1966 and was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, running for 608 performances. A new Broadway revival of the show is opened on 4 May 2005.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
As the last bold, brass chords of the overture die away, a spotlight picks out a girl with a shoulder bag and a heart tattooed on her left arm (CHARITY’S THEME). A sign drops in, reading: “The Adventures of Charity,” followed by second, third and fourth signs that read: “The Story of a…Girl Who Wanted To Be… Loved.” Charity is meeting her boyfriend in the park. While she tells him how great he’s looking, the silent Charlie preens himself (YOU SHOULD SEE YOURSELF). Then he grabs her bag, pushes her into the lake and runs off. A sign appears reading: “Splash!” followed by another reading “The Rescue.” The passers-by discuss the apparent drowning but do nothing, until a young Spaniard finally hauls Charity out and the police arrive, asking questions. An electric sign lights up, announcing “The Fan-Dango Ballroom”, where Charity works as a taxi-dancer . In the Hostess Room, Charity tells her story to several of the dance hall hostesses who urge her to forget him. The manager, Herman, arrives to tell them it’s time for work. In the seedy Ballroom, the girls drape themselves over a rail and proposition their customers (BIG SPENDER). Several of the girls go to the booths with the male customers as Charity tells her problems to her friends Nickie and Helene. She explains how she got involved with her sponge of an ex (CHARITY’S SOLILOQUY).
On a New York Street, on her way home, Charity gives to every beggar who approaches her until she realises she has no money. Just then, film star Vittorio Vidal rushes out of the smart Pompeii Club, in pursuit of his beautiful mistress, Ursula. A sign drops in reading: “A Stroke of Luck.” Vittorio bowls Charity over in more ways than one. Ursula refuses to go back inside with him, who promptly takes the only-too-willing Charity instead. Inside the Pompeii Club, everyone is dancing the latest craze – THE RICH MAN’S FRUG. To everyone’s astonishment, Charity sits down with the famous Vittorio Vidal. She tries to steer him away from the subject of Ursula and, finally, he wants to dance. Not having eaten since breakfast, Charity faints. Vidal wonders what to do until Charity raises her head and hints that he should take her home. Lying down on Vittorio’s bed, Charity suddenly isn’t hungry any more. She admits she’s a dance hall hostess, putting it down to ‘the fickle finger of fate’ – one of her favourite expressions. Vittorio is struck by her humour and honesty. Totally starstruck, Charity asks for a signed photograph to prove to the girls she was really in his apartment. While Vittorio fetches props from his old movies for further evidence, Charity imagines the reactions of her friends at the ballroom (IF MY FRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW). But then Ursula arrives to apologise for her jealousy. Charity is swiftly bundled into a closet before Vittorio opens the door to his fiancée. Vittorio woos Ursula while passing a beer to the closet-hidden Charity (TOO MANY TOMORROWS). Puffing a cigarette, she watches through the keyhole as Vittorio and Ursula make love.
A sign appears: “A New Day.” Ursula is asleep and Vidal tiptoes to the closet to let Charity out. Back at the ballroom, the girls are disgusted that Charity didn’t get more out of Vittorio. All three realize they are stuck with their fate and consider their aspirations for a better life (THERE’S GOTTA BE SOMETHING BETTER THAN THIS). Herman brings them back to down to earth and orders them back to the dance floor. Charity refuses to dance and a sign drops in: “A Big Decision.” She’s going to get some culture from the YMCA on 92nd Street. At the Y, Charity gets stuck in the lift with shy, panicky tax accountant, Oscar Lindquist. While trying to calm him down, Charity finds out he isn’t married (I’M THE BRAVEST INDIVIDUAL). Suddenly, the lights go out and th pair start yelling for help. A sign appears reading “To Be Continued.”
As Act II begins, a sign, “Meanwhile Back In the Elevator…” drops in. The lights are on and they are on the bottom floor. Finally released, Oscar invites Charity to go to church with him. It turns out to be THE RHYTHM OF LIFE Church, which is holding its unorthodox meeting in an underground car park. A police raid breaks up the meeting. Afterwards, Oscar proposes another date. On the subway home, he tries to guess Charity’s job. Unlike with Vittorio, Charity lies and tells him she works in a bank. Two weeks later, Oscar and Charity are still seeing each other and she still hasn’t told him what she actually does for a living. Helene and Nickie humorously enact Charity’s dreams for marriage, a house and children. Both agree they would like the dream for themselves (BABY, DREAM YOUR DREAM). Meanwhile, at “Coney Island”, Oscar and Charity get trapped again – this time on the parachute jump. When Oscar discovers Charity has a fear of heights and needs him he realizes he loves her (SWEET CHARITY). As the crowd look on, the couple kiss.
On a slow night at the Fan-Dango, Charity is beaten to one of the few customers by the new girl. Finally disgusted by the whole business, she quits. But on Times Square she wonders what the alternative is (WHERE AM I GOING?). At Barney’s Chile Hacienda, Charity meets Oscar to have it out. She admits that she’s a dance hall hostess. But he knows. He followed her one night and watched for an hour. He doesn’t care and wants to marry her. Charity leaves on cloud nine and packs a suitcase on which is printed ‘Almost Married’ (I’M A BRASS BAND). After a farewell party at the Ballroom (I LOVE TO CRY AT WEDDINGS), Charity and Oscar walk in the park when Oscar drops a bombshell. He can’t marry her. He’s been thinking about the men before him. As he leaves, Oscar pushes her into the lake. Charity emerges and realises that things are better than before – at least she still has her bag. On cue, a Good Fairy appears promising that “Dreams will come true tonight!”. On her back is a sign that says: “Watch “The Good Fairy” Tonight … 8 o’clock … CBS.” Charity shrugs, and dances off alone as three final signs drop in: “And So She Lived”… “Hopefully”… “Ever After”.
Purchases from Amazon.com
From left to right above: 1. Sweet Charity Original Broadway Cast CD. 2. Sweet Charity Film Soundtrack. 3. Sweet Charity 2 Disc Studio Cast Recording. 4. Sweet Charity New Broadway Cast Recording. 5. Karaoke CD, with songs from Sweet Charity and others.