Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Review of "Guys and Dolls"

 Shows from the 1940’s and 1950’s - the Golden Age of Broadway musicals - are not often present on Connecticut stages.  When they are produced, and done well, the results can be a highly entertaining night (or day) at the theater.  Case in point is the raucous, tuneful, crowd-pleasing production of Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls at the Sharon Playhouse.  The show runs through August 14.


How wonderful it is to sit back and hear all those classic songs live, sung by a superb cast with beautiful and powerful voices.  I even moved my seat from 6th row center in Act I  to the last row in the compact theater for Act II just to see how good the performer’s voices were.  I was not disappointed. 


The songs in Guys and Dolls include such gems as "A Bushel and a Peck," "Adelaide's Lament," "Guys and Dolls," "Luck Be a Lady," "Sue Me," and my personal favorite, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."


The book of the musical, by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, is based on a number of short stories from the writer Damon Runyon.  His often humorous tales are full of colorful characters of Broadway, which include gamblers, nightclub performers, and denizens of the street.  


In Guys and Dolls, the focus is on Nathan Detroit and his men who are desperately trying to find a locale for his floating crap game.  Complicating matters is his longtime girlfriend, Adelaide, who has been patiently waiting 14 years to get married to the man.  Add in the presence of big-time gambler, Sky Masterson and his pursuit of the Salvation Army’s Sarah Brown, and you have a rollicking show, full of humor and well-paced action.


The cast is marvelous, with all the leads played by Equity actors.  Their professionalism, charisma, and hijinks is what makes the musical so enjoyable.  Robert Anthony Jones, as Nathan Detroit, is a lovable schlemiel with superb comic timing and delivery.  Lauralyn McClelland imbues the character of Miss Adelaide with a winsome appeal.  She is also a terrific dancer and accomplished vocalist.  Amanda Lea LaVergne provides the heart and soul of the production as the by-the-book Times Square missionary, Sarah Brown. She convincingly moves the character from having a single-minded, dispassionate outlook on life to a more open-minded, fully empowered woman.  C.K. Edwards is a handsome and solid Sky Masterson.  Mention also needs to be given to the two partners-in-crime of Nathan, Benny Southstreet, portrayed by Dom Giovanni, and Nicely Nicely Johnson (Joshua Spencer).  Like the two gangsters in Kiss, Me Kate and The Drowsy Chaperone, they provide continuous comic relief throughout the production.  Joshua Spencer is also outstanding, singing and hoofing through the big Act II number, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."


Speaking of the choreography, Choreographer Justin Boccitto delivers one fabulous dance sequence after another.  For audience members that savor tap dancing spectacle, the show will not disappoint.  You could argue there is not much variety in the big production numbers but, as a tap aficionado, I’m not complaining.


Doubling as Director, Mr. Boccitto skillfully guides the production through its numerous set changes and seamlessly integrates the dance sequences throughout the show.  He has a light, but assured touch, which adds to the feistiness and playfulness of the musical.  The opening sequence, which depicts the hustle and bustle of New York City life, is presented in shadow behind a curtain pulled across the stage.  It doesn’t really work.  Fortunately, once the sheet is pulled down and the performers come to life, the musical begins to shine.


Daryl Bornstein’s Scenic Design evokes the New York City of yesteryear with logos of many forgotten establishments and businesses plastered above and to the side of the stage.  The movable set pieces add a rewarding variety, which is enhanced by Jamie Rodriguez’s Lighting Design.


The costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case are a dazzling assortment of bold colored suits and splashy night club outfits.  The duo have pulled out all the stops to add authenticity and glamour to the show.


Guys and Dolls, a big, flashy musical that is sure to entertain.  Playing at the Sharon Playhouse through August 14.  Performances are Thursday, August 11th at 2pm & 8pm; Friday, August 12th at 8pm; Saturday, August 13th at 2pm & 8pm; and Sunday, August 14th at 3pm.  Tickets are $20 - $45.  Click here for information.


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