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Guys and Dolls
a Musical Comedy
by Book by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows; Songs by Frank Loesser

COMPANY : Theater of the Stars [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 4102

SHOWING : August 16, 2011 - August 21, 2011



An Unforgettable Score!
Set in Damon Runyon's mythical New York City.

This oddball romantic comedy - considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy - soars with the spirit of Broadway as it introduces us to a cast of vivid characters who have become legends in the canon: Sarah Brown, the upright but uptight "mission doll," out to reform the evildoers of Time Square; Sky Masterson, the slick, high-rolling gambler who woos her on a bet and ends up falling in love; Adelaide, the chronically ill nightclub performer whose condition is brought on by the fact she's been engaged to the same man for 14 years; and Nathan Detroit, her devoted fiance, desparate as always to find a spot for his infamous floating crap game.

GUYS AND DOLLS has an unforgettable score by Frank Loesser that includes such classics as "Adelaide's Lament", "Luck Be a Lady Tonight", and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat".

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Goll-Durn Summer Stock
by playgoer
Friday, August 26, 2011
Theatre of the Stars' production of "Guys and Dolls" lets the pleasures of the Damon Runyonesque book and Frank Loesser's songs shine through. That's largely through the talents of the large cast and orchestra. Megan Sikora is delightful as the adenoidal Adelaide. Steve Rosen pairs the looks of a young Jon Lovitz or Phil Silvers with an energetic performance as her long-time fiance and small-time hoodlum Nathan Detroit. Glenn Rainey stops the show as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, and he is well-paired with Garth Kravitz as Benny Southstreet. All the low-lifes of the New York streets are played with verve and sparkle by the ensemble. A lot of the humor is cheap and obvious, such as having Harry the Horse (Adam Moreno) whinny and stomp his foot, but it all fits the style of the show.

A lot of the technical elements of the show do their best to dampen the audience's enjoyment, but fail to do so. The frame of the show is scaffolding with the words "Guys and Dolls" arranged in three rows. Set designer Kate Sutton-Johnson has chosen to have the middle portion ("uy and oll") rise upward at the start of each act, leaving the set spelling out "G oll D S S." Charlie Morrison's lighting plays colored lights over the lettering during the overture and entr'acte, which makes for a pretty tacky display. Then, during the sewer sequence, the lighting appears to be a PowerPoint presentation projected on the actors rather than anything relating to the sewer pipes overhead. Other lighting appears murky and uneven.

Costumes and wigs, "coordinated" and "designed" by Chad Jason, are a mixed bag. Adelaide's wig is a red "I Love Lucy" lookalike, which may be period for the early 1950's, but brings up associations that play against Adelaide's character. The costumes for Adelaide and the Hot Box girls are better, and end up being scanty enough that it's clear the Hot Box is basically a strip joint. This, however, comes as a bit of a shock, given the G-rated dialogue and light-hearted tone of the show. The sedate behavior of the men sitting at tables in the Hot Box club also works against the strip joint feel, so the audience is being presented with mixed signals.

Choreography, by Patti Colombo, is generally fun and sprightly. The major problem is that the Hot Box girls are too good in comparison to the highly talented Megan Sikora. Adelaide is supposed to be the long-time star of the show, but she doesn't come across as much more than the center person in the choreography. All it would take is a slightly lackluster performance by the Hot Box girls to let Adelaide's energy shine through. Here, her "star" performance is drowned out by Ms. Colombo's frenetic staging of the supporting players.

The person really let down in this production, though, is Erin Davie as Salvation Army Sister Sarah Brown. She has probably the most impressive resume in the cast, with important featured roles on Broadway in "Grey Gardens" and "A Little Night Music," but here she comes across as static and unlikeable. She has a horrible blonde wig that sticks out at the neck line. Her midi-length uniform is unflattering to the point that her body almost seems deformed. She plays her early scenes with arms held resolutely to her sides. That might be a valid acting choice if director Gordon Greenberg had her make a noticeable movement upward with her arms at some point when she is being loosened up. I kept waiting for such a moment, but it never came. Ms. Davie suddenly started performing complicated choreography by Patti Colombo in the Havana scene, but there was no transition in terms of body movement. A good director could have shaped her performance to make the transitions smoother and her character more appealing.

Ben Crawford, as Sky Masterson, has hands-down the best voice in the production. His deep baritone is a joy to listen to. It was disconcerting in his first scene to hear him speak his Runyonesque dialogue with none of the New York flavor Glenn Rainey and crew were using, but his performance grew on me during the show's running time. During curtain call, though, the lack of chemistry between him and Erin Davie was almost palpable. Ms. Davie gave a warm arm wave to the ensemble to join the front line after the solo bows, but barely acknowledged Mr. Crawford as he stood beside her. Once again, a simple note from the director should have been able to correct that.

"Guys and Dolls" is listed as a national tour, and it certainly seems to have the substance, in terms of physical presence and talent, to be one. In terms of execution, however, it has many of the hallmarks of summer stock, where there is inadequate rehearsal time to put everything together. Here, it seems that people were hired for their roles (either technical or performance-related) and all the elements were thrown in the pot, with the hopes that the audience wouldn't see the obvious seams stitching the disparate pieces together. That the whole mix doesn't quite jell lies firmly in the hands of the producers (Big League Productions) and director (Gordon Greenberg).

So why the high numerical rating I've given this production? The raw material is good enough to trump any minor deficiencies, if done with sincerity and humor. The cast of Theatre of the Stars' production provides all the sincerity and humor one could wish for. The talent is all there. A different director and production team could have made this a real blockbuster. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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