Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sweet Charity...

...Is over. Yep, we finished on Saturday so those of you who didn't come to Budleigh have obviously missed out. Normally what I would want to do is review the show, but I feel that would be pretty mean and also totally unsubjective. But what I can do is review the material especially as I've been absorbed in it for a few months. Analysis time!

Sweet Charity was a collaboration between Cy Coleman (music), Dorothy Fields (lyrics) and Paul Simon (book). Each already had successes in their respective fields and went on to have further success. My first encounter with Sweet Charity was year 8 music class where, for some unknown reason, Big Spender seemed a perfectly logical choice of song to teach a mixed hormonal class (cue Hey Big Bender!). I had other skirmishes with the creative teams' other works- Fields wrote the lyrics to Sunny Side of the Street; a piece I played for my grade 5 keyboard exam, Coleman went on to write The Life; a show about prostitutes with the heartbreaking song Someday Is For Suckers.

And with that beautifully written segueway we come to the music of Sweet Charity. I have no complaints with a large majority of the first act- when Fields and Coleman get it right, they get it right. The overture is possibly one of the best ever only surpassed by the booming opening of Gypsy. The rousing brassy melody of Big Spender leading into that amazing dance break from If They Could See Me Now into the almost Bernstein-like There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This. We fall to a slight lull with the first song You Should See Yourself, it suits but it's never going to be memorable. What follows is the series of songs that makes Sweet Charity famous (and have already been mentioned in the Overture), which brings us to Too Many Tomorrows or as I like to call it: "Dirge Many Dirgemorrows". Boy, is it dull, and goes on forever, and is completely pointless, and I had to wait for it to finish before my scene every night. You get the picture.
And here lies the problem with the show- it was created for one woman: Gwen Verdon. All the female songs are great but I pity any man who is ever in that show and not playing Daddy Brubeck. The other male solos; Sweet Charity and I Love To Cry at Weddings pale in comparison to anything else in the show. Sweet Charity, the title song should be a high point for the character Oscar, instead he spends it singing some non-coherent metaphors backed by a discordant chorus that really don't want to be there. And I Love To Cry At Weddings is just a poor attempt at recreating the Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat type eleven o clock number. Fail.

So why is it that Daddy Brubeck is the only male principle not suffer the indecency of a shit song? Daddy's song wasn't added until out of town tryouts. Ahh, the beauty of the out of town try out (that Britain never got the hang of).I hate to think what was there before but Rhythm of Life is possibly the most famous song from Sweet Charity, although may have been over popularised by school choirs singing the "safe lyric" version- boring! I enjoyed being able to get back to the heart of the song, its intricate counterpoint and I guess embracing my inner hippy a bit more. Although it is an awesome song it fails in one important aspect; it just doesn't fit with the show. Rhythm of Life appears out of the blue, everyone enjoys it and then it goes away. Showtunes tend to have one of two purposes; to further the plot or develop a character, Rhythm of Life does neither. From there on in, the second act just feels like Fields and Coleman were running very close to the deadline and either stuck in half finished songs that fit the plot (eg. I Love To Cry At Weddings, Sweet Charity) or good songs that they just had hanging around (Rhythm of Life and Where Am I Going?)

I feel my mother may kick me off the computer soon, so I'll get to the book later- stay tuned.

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