Charity Hope Valentine, the sweet, psychologically wounded, eternally
hopeful taxi dancer at the center of this 1966 Tony Award-winning musical,
originally directed and choreographed on Broadway by Bob Fosse, is a hard
character to get right. Play her too soft and she seems like a dope and
pushover (she seems to have spent her life falling for lazy louts, like the
guy at the start of the musical who takes her purse and pushes her into the
lagoon in Central Park). Play her too hard and she becomes unlikable.
Anne Horak’s Charity is very likable, but that’s a problem too. From the
first moment she dances onto the stage, she seems utterly charming and
worthy of love; Horak doesn’t give her enough room to change over the
course of the play. And the play is all about change. Specifically, it is
about Charity’s journey from childish innocence (and cripplingly low
self-esteem) to a firmer sense of her own strength and self-worth. Horack
doesn’t take us on that journey.
Nor does anyone else in this nice but lackluster production. Alex Goodrich,
for example, doesn’t move us as the man who finally shows Charity real
love; instead he overplays his comic hand, ruining the subtle comedy in
Neil Simon’s book by telegraphing punch lines or otherwise working way too
hard to show everyone he’s being funny.
Alex Sanchez’s choreography gracefully translates Fosse’s iconic dance
moves to the Marriott’s in-the-round theater space. But his direction is
less graceful. Simon’s fine book is given short shrift, and neither the
terrific choreography nor Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’s songs can carry
the show alone. v