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The Bravest Individuals: A Brief History of the Fabulous Females Who Have Taken on SWEET CHARITY

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Timed to the 50th Anniversary of the classic musical, Broadway fans are gearing up for an off-Broadway production of Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman's, "Sweet Charity".

In a casting coup that has theatre fans chomping at the bit, the production will star two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster ("Younger," Violet, Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Charity Hope Valentine, the sassy, diehard romantic dancehall hostess whose naivety and overeager embrace of every man she meets keeps getting her in hot water.

Throughout its storied history, the show has seen more than its fair share of Broadway's brightest dancing divas in the title role. From 1965 to 2016, the absolute cream of musical theatre leading ladies have declared their status as a brass band and braved the behemoth role with sass, wit, and romanticism.

In the original production, conceived and choreographed by Bob Fosse, the role was tailored to the singular talents of his wife and muse, Gwen Verdon, who received a Tony nomination for her starring turn. When the show hit the road, Broadway legend, Chita Rivera, stepped into Charity's dancing shoes and was subsequently cast as the sidekick, Nickie, in the film version starring Shirley MacLaine as the titular character. A 1986 revival saw a similar dynamic between star, Debbie Allen and supporting actress, Bebe Neuwirth, who won a Tony for her turn as Nickie and also acted as standby for the role of Charity, playing the dancehall hostess on numerous occasions. The same revival would go on to star Anne Reinking, making her return to Broadway in the first time in almost a decade.

"A Chorus Line" star, Donna McKechnie, was personally invited by Bob Fosse to take on the role in a touring production, in what would ultimately be his last show, and received a Helen Hayes nomination for her work. On June 15, 1998, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS presented a fully staged one-night-only benefit concert of the show at Lincoln Center, starring Rivera, Neuwirth, McKechnie, Allen and Gwen Verdon, in her last public stage appearance, reprising the role in a shared performance.

International revivals include starring turns in London productions by Juliet Prowse and Tazmin Outhwaite, and an Australian revival starring Verity Hunt-Ballard.

Christina Applegate starred in the most recent Broadway revival of the show, which opened in 2005 after an infamously troubled three-city out of town tryout. During one preview in Chicago, Applegate suffered an injury, a broken foot, and handed over the reigns to her very capable understudy, Charlotte d'Amboise. The national tour of that revival would go on to star Brat Pack icon, Molly Ringwald, in the role, who would be succeeded by Paige Davis.

Make no mistake about it, the history of "Sweet Charity" is rife with veritable Broadway royalty dreaming their dreams and entertaining audiences across the globe. In anticipation of the upcoming revival and in celebration of all of the bravest individuals that have led us to the incomparable Sutton Foster, Broadway World has put together a retrospective of some of the luminous ladies who have belted, beckoned to big spenders, and bowed as the spunky and starry-eyed heroine that is Charity Hope Valentine.

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From This Author Alexa Criscitiello