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‘Sweet Charity’ touring cast delivers great show

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Molly Ringwald and Aaron Ramey star in "Sweet Charity."

Molly Ringwald and Aaron Ramey star in “Sweet Charity.”

Craig Schwartz

SWEET CHARITY, Capitol Theatre, through Nov. 19 (355-2787 or www.arttix.org); running time: 150 minutes (one intermission).

Star vehicles are usually tough acts to follow.

Rarely, if ever, do performers in revivals come up to the impossibly high standards first set by such signature performances as, say, Yul Brynner in "The King and I" or Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady" or Carol Channing in "Hello, Dolly!"

So you've got to hand it to Molly Ringwald for stepping into a role that Gwen Verdon originally made her own on Broadway, and which Shirley MacLaine claimed for the 1969 film version.

Ringwald gives us a Charity Hope Valentine who is certainly both likable and vulnerable. Vocally, she does just fine in such show-stopping numbers as "If My Friends Could See Me Now" and "I'm A Brass Band."

The show's best dancing is in the big ensemble segments — the Fandango Ballroom's tawdry dancers in the sizzling "Big Spender," the energetic "Rich Man's Frug" and "The Rhythm of Life."

Charity's a pushover. Her dance-hall friends say she has "a heart like a hotel; there are men constantly checking in and out."

This national touring production of the recent Broadway revival was directed by Scott Faris and choreographed by Wayne Cilento (with nods to Bob Fosse's original 1966 routines).

Ringwald gets strong support from the other performers — especially Guy Adkins, who is hilarious as shy tax accountant Oscar Lindquist, who falls in love with Charity after they're stuck in an elevator at the 92nd Street Y, then, a little later, on the ferris wheel at Coney Island.

Amanda Watkins and Kisha Howard are also standouts as two of Charity's best Fandango friends, Nickie and Helene. They really deliver in "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" and "Baby, Dream Your Dream." And Aaron Ramey is a commanding presence as an Italian film star.

Local theatergoers should enjoy seeing Orem native Ben Cameron popping up all over the place in four different roles — as the policeman who rescues Charity from a lake in the park, as a waiter in the Pompeii Club, as Vidal's personal valet Manfred and as a receptionist at the information desk at the 92nd Street Y.

The production's four touring musicians are nicely augmented by 13 local players recruited from Joe Muscalino's Big Band.

And with William Ivey Long's bright-colored costumes and Scott Pask's bursts of psychedelic scenery, the show comes off as an interesting relic of the mid-1960s.

Sensitivity rating: The dancing in the Fandango Ballroom is pretty suggestive.

E-mail: ivan@desnews.com