Thought by many to be the quintessential American musical, Guys and Dolls delights audiences with the tale of a group of likeable gamblers circa late '40s New York. Full of well known, beautiful songs by Frank Loesser (including "Fugue for Tinhorns," "A Bushel and a Peck," "I've Never Been in Love Before," and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat"), the show (based on Damon Runyon's short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown") tells the tale of Nathan Detroit (Justin Deas) and his quest to find a place to host his notorious crap game and to continue to extend his 14-year engagement with Adelaide (Victoria Clark). Detroit enters into a bet with ladies man Sky Masterson (Robert Cuccioli) in order to be able to fund the crap game, and the bet involves Save-a-Soul Mission leader Sarah Brown (Kate Suber), who would like to bring about salvation for all of the gamblers in the city. Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows have written an energetic, funny, and smart show that still is fresh today, 52 years after it debuted on Broadway.
The CLO production of Guys and Dolls explodes on stage with impressive and colorful costumes and sets (the costumes are those used in the 1992 Broadway revival and the sets are from the subsequent national tour). The lead cast has also been well designed; supported by a full set of ensemble members, this is the most lush production of the season thus far.
The spotlight of this musical is on Nathan and Adelaide. Justin Deas is most well known for his television background (he is a six time Emmy winner for his soap opera work and is currently appearing on Guiding Light), but he also has a background in regional and Off Broadway theatre. Deas is a charmer as Nathan Detroit. He is a natural comedian and, though he curiously doesn't use a New York accent in this show, he lands the humor in the role of Detroit (and there is a lot funny stuff to be landed).
Nathan and Sky must work well together on stage, though they are quite different in personality. Deas' Nathan and Cuccioli's Masterson (right) do have good chemistry together and each makes the other look good. Cuccioli extends his three-year history of romantic leads at the CLO with this role, and all three appearances have been delightful. He is so comfortable on stage, and he has such great rapport with the audience, he seems almost as happy to be here as the audience is to have him. He is in wonderful voice, and it is a treat to hear him sing such lovely ballads as "I'll Know" and "I've Never Been in Love Before." Kate Suber is a properly prim and modest Sarah when she needs to be, and a spunky do-gooder when the role calls for that. Sarah's songs require a beautiful soprano voice and Suber has that in spades.
Often the choice role, and certainly the highligh in this production, is faithful Adelaide. Played by the tremendously talented Victoria Clark, our Adelaide is totally enchanting. Clark is one of the best comedic actors the CLO has featured in recent years (she also was a winner in last year's Bells Are Ringing) and seems born to play this role. Having played the part on Broadway, it fits her talents perfectly. Her nightclub scenes, in particular, are hilarious and well done (accompanied by the talented Hot Box chickies, see left). Funny, winsome, and a joy to hear sing, Clark is an Adelaide to remember.
Direction by Van Kaplan is peppy and well done, and choreography by Mark Esposito, though not perfect, has its moments, particularly in the "Havanna" and "Luck Be a Lady" sequences (the latter being a fine opportunity for this year's male dancers to show their atheticism) Lighting by John McLain is right on par with the set and costume design - all combine to present a gorgeous production.
Guys and Dolls, presented by the Pittsburgh CLO, closes July 21.