As Lyric Theatre's production of “Sweet Charity” opens, its engine is safely parked at the train station. The cast then busies itself with scenes that function as exposition, much like the hectic activity that accompanies passengers preparing to embark upon a journey filled with expectation.
We meet the title character, a girl whose goal in life is simply to be loved. For a brief moment, we believe she's found it, but Charlie, the guy whose name is tattooed on Charity's arm, dumps her into a lake and dashes off with her money.
We're subsequently introduced to Charity's co-workers at the Fandango Ballroom, a seedy dive where men pay for, well, let's call it companionship, with the establishment's dance hall hostesses.
The train slowly gathers speed as we learn more about Charity and her infatuation with Charlie in “You Should See Yourself.” By the time “Big Spender” comes along, a brilliant company number thanks to some clever wordplay by lyricist Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman's alluring melody, this rail journey is safely underway.
But it's not until the company tackles “Rich Man's Frug” that the production reaches full speed. This will be the first of several standout numbers choreographed by Randy Slovacek. “Sweet Charity” also marks Ashley Wells' directorial debut and it's a promising beginning.
Coleman's score to “Sweet Charity” remains one of his finest, with at least six of its musical numbers considered outright classics. David Andrews Rogers and his orchestra are a big part of this production's success, much of it attributable to the score's sterling orchestrations.
Unfortunately, the momentum stalls during many of the book scenes, a surprising discovery considering Neil Simon's contributions. There's also a studied feel about too many of the show's elements, a combination of opening night jitters and the cast's slight lack of confidence.
With her megawatt smile and Bob Fosse moves, Milena Govich dazzles during the show's iconic numbers. During quieter moments, though, one misses a much-needed vulnerability in Govich's portrayal.