Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Chita Gives Generously of Talent in "Sweet Charity"

Cleveland Press August 8, 1967

There are approximately four dozen very talented people occupying the stage of Musicarnival this week and next, but for all practical purposes the production that opened last night is a one-woman show.

The woman is Chita Rivera who is starring in "Sweet Charity." This incomparable and energetic dancer struts, stomps and slithers her way around the stage in a manner that suggests that she has pivoted ankles, hinged knees and ball-bearing hips.

Even when she walks there is the suggestion that she is about to break loose with that pile-driving energy of hers.

"Sweet Charity" is loosely based on the Federico Fellini film, "Nights of Cabiria." The setting has been switched from Italy to New York and the heroine and her friends are dance hall hostesses at the Fan Dango Ballroom who are occasionally engaged in an occupation of even lesser repute.

MISS RIVERA PLAYS the title role, Charity Hope Valentine, a girl who is a born loser -- always optimistic but forever disappointed.

While she dreams of better things her cynical and realistic friends know they will never escape from the dance hall where they line up nightly to sing sarcastically "Big Spender" to the men who look them over.

Composer Cy Coleman has written a driving, staccato score which is at its pulsating best in "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This," sung and danced by Miss Rivera, Sandy Roveta and Sandra Lein.

Dorothy Fields' lyrics are witty and intelligent, making every number an integral part of the show.

IF "SWEET CHARITY" has a weakness it is in Neil Simon's book which at times is wonderfully hilarious but at other moments forces its laughter. The play is basically poignant but not consistently so. The show, incidentally, is not for youngsters.

Miss Rivera has two leading men -- Jack Washburn as a hammy Italian actor and Gene Rupert as a shy, neurotic young man who thinks he loves her. Both are excellent in their roles.

Among the show's better moments is one in which Miss Rivera sings "If My Friends Could See Me Now" in the apartment of her actor idol.

SATIRICALLY wild is a number about a beatnik religious group, Rhythm of Life, led by a reefer smoking leader. ("We are number seven in the top ten religions.")

"I Am A Brass Band" is typical of the show's appeal as Miss Rivera marches and leaps about the stage in one of the many numbers that make this production sparkle. She has a big voice too, one that can be heard all over the tent theater.

And she's hardly ever off stage. It is a good thing for "Sweet Charity" that she isn't.