Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, we’re paying tribute to Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse — subjects of an FX limited series currently being telecast (in April and May 2019) — by celebrating one of their seminal collaborations, Sweet Charity (1966), which boasts a book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by Dorothy Fields.
Naturally, no one has played Charity Hope Valentine better than its originator, Gwen Verdon. Here she is performing “If My Friends Could See Me Now” on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Juliet Prowse played the role in London (and her ’67 cast recording is worth checking out in addition to Verdon’s original — frankly, you can skip the movie), but the next big Broadway revival occurred in 1986 and starred Debbie Allen. She was understudied by Bebe Neuwirth and replaced by Ann Reinking, with Donna McKechnie headlining the ensuing national tour. For subscribers — with no commercial designs on this material whatsoever — who comment below to alert me of their interest, I’ll send a video of the 1998 one-night-only all-star benefit concert, which features five rotating charities — Verdon, Allen, Neuwirth, McKechnie, and Chita Rivera (who played the role in the 1967 national tour) — along with a great cast that includes Robert Goulet, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and John McMartin. As a taste, here’s McKechnie, Neuwirth, and Rivera with “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.”
I’ll also throw in a video of Reinking, considered by many to be the finest Fosse dancer after Verdon, in the role. Here she is leading Neuwirth and Allison Williams in the same number.
Come back next week for our next Wildcard post! And stay tuned Monday for another musical theatre rarity!