Monday, July 24, 2006

Sweet Charity (1966 musical, 1969 film)

The fantabulous Sarah Reid (who also gave us the Scranton reference in the movie musical Finian's Rainbow) found another Scranton reference in another classic musical--Sweet Charity.

Sweet Charity tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a lovelorn New York City dance hall hostess who dreams of having an old-fashioned romance--despite the fact that she repeatedly falls for Mr. Wrong. The musical is responsible for such classics as Big Spender, If They Could See Me Now, There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This, Where Am I Going, and I'm A Brass Band.

Music was written by Cy Coleman (Wildcat with Lucille Ball, The Will Rogers Follies, The Life), and lyrics by Dorothy Fields (Annie Get Your Gun, Ain't Misbehavin'). The book of the musical (based on the film Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini) was written by Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys, Barefoot in the Park).

The Scranton reference appears in the beginning of Act II. Charity's latest beau Oscar invites her to go to church with him. She accepts and soon learns that Oscar's church is a little unusual, where their leader Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck preaches mostly of welfare and drug resolutions. Daddy Johann breaks out into a song titled Rhythm of Life, which includes the following lyrics:

Daddy, spread the gospel in Milwaukee,
Took his walkie talkie to Rocky Ridge,
Blew his way to Canton, then to Scranton,
'Til he landed under the Manhattan Bridge.

You can read the complete lyrics to Rhythm of Life by clicking here.

The original Broadway musical debuted in January 1966 and starred Gwen Verdon in the title role; it played for over 600 performances at the Palace Theater. The show was revived on Broadway in 1987 with Debbie Allen and Bebe Neuwirth. Ironically, the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweet Charity, starring Christina Applegate, was directed by none other than Scranton native Walter Bobbie.

A film version starring Shirley Maclaine and directed by Bob Fosse (Broadway's Chicago in 1975 and the films Cabaret and All That Jazz) was released in 1969. Sammy Davis Jr. performs Rhythm of Life in the film.

The DVD of the film version of Sweet Charity is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System. Click here to place a hold; if you'd like to reserve the CD soundtrack of the original Broadway cast recording, click here.

Much thanks again to Miss Sarah for another great Scranton musical reference.