J. Smith: Sweet performance gives life to women’s lib song-and-dance

After watching the latest local dinner theatre production, one might be inclined to wonder how the sweet performances in Sweet Charity can end on such a sour note.

After watching the latest local dinner theatre production, one might be inclined to wonder how the sweet performances in Sweet Charity can end on such a sour note.

While Tracy Ross throws her heart into her role as Charity Hope Valentine, one can’t help but think the charitable thing to do here might be a little clip to playwright Neil Simon’s ending.

After the second round of watching the young heroine fall from a bridge into the channel below, any self-respecting woman—and on opening night the audience was probably 80 per cent women—is kind of wondering if this maybe wasn’t the evening to skip the coffee and dessert and call an end to date-night before things went south.

There’s something a little uncomfortable, after all, about resurrecting 1960s attitudes on female sensibilities without at least openly poking fun at the underlying premise.

For some reason, despite impeccable dance numbers, fabulous singing and outstanding comedic timing from young star Quinn Bates, Kelowna Actors’ Studio played this damsel in perpetual distress tale just a little too straight.

Even in the Bible belt, it is somewhat off-putting to spend an entire night weeding through song and dance to find the moral of the story is that a loose woman is damned to be a loose woman, come virtually any circumstance (or man) that may.

Sure, Ms. Valentine manages to pull herself out of the drink in the end, both literally and figuratively, but after sitting through the story that plays out before this pinnacle of liberation, one cannot help but think simply drowning herself in a good helping of moonshine should have been what the doctor ordered.

All of that said, the Actors’ Studio has to be commended for some of the best costuming, glitz, glam and pizzazz to grace a Kelowna stage in a long time.

The I-Dream-of-Jeannie lookalike could not have whipped that ponytail any harder had she actually been on Broadway, while the Afro-loving preacher was side-splitting.

At least from the vantage point of table six, Daddy Brubeck’s four-foot mane of glory, and the followers of The Rhythm of Life Church, totally stole the show.

One of the truly brilliant things about the casting here is the mix of ages and characters, and the extra elements of humour they bring to what was clearly intended to be an entirely adult setting.

On for the rest of the month, Sweet Charity will no doubt prove a very successful centerpiece for the studio’s 2011 season, whether the audience walks away a little nonplussed with the main character or not.

On my way out the door, I have to admit I was dreaming up ways sweet, dumb Charity could have done better, like maybe going the more traditional route with the whole bank hijinks.

Instead of having Charity, a lowly dance hall hostess, pretend to be a bank teller to smooth the wrinkles of a bad reputation, perhaps she could have just robbed the bank and used the proceeds to find herself a nice gigolo instead of a dopey accountant with a penchant for virgins.

Ah well, if nothing else, Sweet Charity will keep a girl whistling Dixie and dreaming up better endings—which I suppose is the point.

Sweet Charity runs until April 17, Thursday through Sunday evenings with a Saturday matinée.

For information and tickets see www.kelownaactorstudio.com.

jsmith@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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