Guys and Dolls
Also see Fred's review of The Circle
Guys and Dolls is called "a musical fable of Broadway" and no wonder. New York City, which never sleeps, provides the backdrop. Set designer Alexander Dodge simulates high-rise Manhattan buildings. The hour of day and evening shifts according to lighting designer Rui Rita's hues upon the structures and simulated windows. Costumer Alejo Vietti favors bright, breezy outfits for women and period piece suits for men, many of whom are 1950s gambling types.
Sarah Brown (Morgan James), of Save a Soul Mission in Times Square, truly hopes to rid the city of its sordid elements, which includes men who bet, drink and swindle. Meanwhile, Adelaide (Leslie Kritzer), a showgirl who isn't twenty-something any longer, wants badly to find her house in an inviting suburb. Nathan Detroit (Michael Thomas Holmes) needs to find another spot for his "floating crap game." The suave Sky Masterson (Matthew Risch) is always willing to wager. Thus, he takes a bet with Nathan that he, Sky, can cajole and charm Sarah Brown so she will fly to Havana with him.
For fourteen long, frustrating years, Adelaide has been waiting for Nathan to come around and marry her. To assuage her mother, Adelaide has told tales of the many children she and Nathan now have. Some cops close in upon Nathan and he is pretty much coerced into saying that he will elope with Adelaide. But he finds that it is impossible to leave the dice game, and Adelaide, again, is left to stand by. Eventually, everyone honors a pact to get to a prayer meeting. The not-so-bad guys confess and, in the end, the leading couples marry.
Guys and Dolls is drawn from characters and stories penned by Damon Runyon. Barrington Stage spins scenes and musical numbers carefully yet significantly to re-ignite the interest of even those observers already sold on this classic or legendary musical. Working with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Rando, musical director Darren Cohen, and choreographer Joshua Bergasse absolutely raise the roof any number of times.
The music is familiar but fresh and the deliveries spirited and on pitch. Such tunes (it seems nearly clichéd to mention the titles) as "The Oldest Established," "Adelaide's Lament," "Guys and Dolls," "If I Were a Bell," "My Time of Day," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "More I Cannot Wish You" and "Luck Be a Lady" are all winsome and surprisingly ecstatic.
Morgan James has a sweet soprano and she lifts her voice (with pleasing results) time and again. Michael Thomas Holmes makes for a sympathetic and lovable Nathan, especially with "The Crapshooter's Dance" and its famous lyric line: "Call a lawyer and sue me, sue me, what can you do me? I love you."
Daniel Marcus' Nice-Nicely is uproarious and also vocally strong as he and his "colleagues" set the place aglow with "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
The dance numbers nearly blaze at times with actors such as Tommy Bracco (as Harry the Horse) flipping gymnastically on stage. "A Bushel and a Peck," too, is filled with sassy pizzazz and high kicks.
Of course, Guys and Dolls benefits from and through delectable caricature and appropriate exaggeration. This production also makes the most of comedic opportunities (Leslie Kritzer's timing is precise). Nathan, near the final curtain, appears and, put it this way, he doesn't look like his stereotypical crap shooting self.
A perfect evening? I would have preferred a more charismatic Sky Masterson. Otherwise, Matthew Risch, in the role, is fine.
Thus, Guys and Dolls on Barrington Stage Company's main stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through July 16th, is an early summer season must-see. For ticket information, call (413) 236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.
- Fred Sokol