Last weekend, I attended my first live-theatre show since the Before Times: Sweet Charity, a musical I’d never seen before, performed by a group of local university students.
There I sat alone – my would-be companion sidelined with Covid, natch – the audience fully masked. Even the performers wore masks, except when singing a lead part.
A 1960s Broadway musical based on the Federico Fellini movie Nights of Cabiria, the original Sweet Charity came with a book by Neil Simon, choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse, and the lead role filled by Gwen Verdon as a bubbly “dance hall hostess” who meets a shy tax accountant when they get stuck in the same elevator.
The show makes it pretty clear that being a “dance hall hostess” commonly involved an income-supplementing activity for some of the women that, these days, would be referred to as “sex work.”
When the musical number Big Spender started up, a strange familiarity started to come over me. I knew that song. And not just from decades’ worth of pop-culture references. I knew it.
And then it hit me. I sang that song. Back at a children’s arts camp I attended as kid, in one of our group performances.
Was it a bit odd that a bunch of 12-year olds were taught to sing a song about showing wealthy men a “good time”? If it was, we certainly didn’t realize it at the time.
Anyway. That wasn’t even the song that’s stuck with me the most since the show. That honour goes to Rhythm of Life, a mesmerizing earworm that just won’t leave, especially after I listened to this version by Sammy Davis Jr. from the movie adaptation. Check it out, if you dare. And tell me what you think.