Guys and Dolls at the Arena Stage demonstrates that some musicals really are timeless. Director Charles Randolph-Wright has assembled a top-notch production that allows Frank Loesser's incredible music and clever lyrics to shine. This comedy, based on Damon Runyon's story of gamblers, gangsters, and entertainers and set around "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York," is completely engaging from beginning to end.
Maurice Hines stars as Nathan Detroit and displays a wonderful energy and enthusiasm. Mr. Hines's Nathan is charismatic and has a charm that makes him appealing and even sympathetic at times, in spite of his obvious ploys to keep from marrying Adelaide, his fiancée of 14 years. Mr. Hines has great comic timing which he puts to use particularly well in his scenes with Alexandra Foucard as Adelaide. Ms. Foucard brings the house down herself with her delivery of Adelaide's memorable lament about her marital status and its ill effects on her health. Ms. Foucard imbues Adelaide with the perfect combination of naivete, determination, and street-smarts. Ms. Foucard carries off Adelaide's requisite (and difficult) accent nicely, but when she is able to let go and belt out some of Adelaide's bigger notes, it is clear that she has an amazing voice. One of the highlights of the evening comes with the duet "Sue Me" in which an exasperated Adelaide rejects a repentant Nathan when she thinks he is lying to her yet again.
Diane Sutherland (formerly Fratantoni) as Sarah Brown and Brian Sutherland as Sky Masterson (both pictured at right) provide the more traditional romantic storyline of opposites that are inexplicably attracted to each other. Ms. Sutherland portrays the straight-laced and dedicated (but not very effective) missionary out to save the sinners of New York from themselves. Her attraction to the smooth gambler, Sky Masterson, comes as an unwelcome surprise that she is not quite sure how to handle. Ms. Sutherland conveys well Sarah's aloofness and subsequent uncertainty and vulnerability as she struggles against her feelings for the gambler. Mr. Sutherland's Sky Masterson does not appear any better equipped to be involved with Sarah and is stunned to find himself in love with the subject of one of his bets. Mr. Sutherland presents an appropriately self-confident (even arrogant at times) Sky Masterson which makes a nice contrast to his sense of wonder at being in love in "I've Never Been In Love Before."
Other outstanding performances are provided by Wayne W. Pretlow as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Lawrence Redmond as Benny Southstreet, the earnest sidekicks of Nathan Detroit in the title song "Guys and Dolls." Mr. Pretlow, with his beautiful tenor, also leads an inspired "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
Terrence Currier as Arvide Abernathy provides the most touching moment of the evening with his poignant performance of "More I Cannot Wish You." The moment is beautiful in its simplicity; Abernathy's heartfelt wish that Sarah be happy is expressed honestly and with great tenderness.
The dancing, from the Hot Box numbers to the latin dancing in Havana to the crap shooters' dance, is high energy and fun to watch. The staging and sets for this production in the round are sharp and uncomplicated. Ultimately, the lack of spectacle in this show works very well because it allows the audience to focus on Frank Loesser's music and lyrics and the quality performances turned in by the talented cast.
Guys and Dolls. Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. With Wayne W. Pretlow, Lawrence Redmond, Michael W. Howell, Lorna Ventura, Terrence Currier, Diane Sutherland, Carlos Lopez, Stephen F. Schmidt, Maurice Hines, Ryan Blanchard, Alexandra Foucard, Brian Sutherland, Rosa Evangelina Arredondo, Donna Migliaccio, Richard L. Pelzman, P.J. Terranova, and Bobby Pestka. Music Direction by Danny Kosarin. Choreography by Ken Roberson. Settings by Thomas Lynch. Costumes by Paul Tazewell. Lighting by Michael Gilliam. Sound by Susan R. White. Voice and Speech Consultant: Adele Cabot. Technical Director: Jim Glendinning. Stage Manager: Barbara Rollins.
Through February 20, 2000 at the Arena Stage in the Fichandler. Call the Box Office at (202) 488-3300 or visit www.arena-stage.org