Guys and Dolls
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The libretto is a collaboration of the team of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Their characters are based on the New York stories of sports columnist and writer Damon Runyonprimarily his short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown." Happily featuring Runyonesque slang and quirky, comedic characters that bring the show to life, the book is undeniably funny. Frank Loesser's well-written music and lyrics fill the show with lovely, memorable ballads for the tender moments, and match the rhythm and slang of the speech patterns of the characters in comedic numbers as well.
As the show opens, we are introduced to Nathan Detroit, a guy forever in search of his next illegal dice game, and his doll Adelaide, a dancer forever in search of matrimony. In the song "Adelaide's Lament" she attributes her lingering cold to psychosomatic symptoms resulting from her perpetual lack of a wedding bandand rightfully so, as she and Nathan been engaged for 14 years. Nathan is sure he can score big at the next crap game if he can only find a place to hold it ("The Oldest Established"). Once he finds a place, he needs $1,000 to get it. Enter high-roller Sky Masterson, a guy who claims that he can get any doll. So, Nathan makes him a $1,000 bet. He bets Sky that he can't get the local Salvation Army Mission doll, Miss Sarah Brown. Sky takes the bet, and attempts to charm the seemingly untouchable Sarah. In the end he compromises his pride for her honor, but in the deal, he unexpectedly loses his heart ("I've Never Been In Love Before").
Colleen Amaya is wonderful as Sarah Brown. The role is often played prudish and emotionally unavailable, leaving one to wonder why Sky would ever fall in love with her. Amaya as Sarah is a woman who has given her heart to her charitable work, and has a mind keen enough to understandably be wary of a player like Sky Masterson. Sarah must already have a heart in order for it to be won by Sky. Amaya makes it all make sense. It can be of little surprise that she is won over by Adam Bashian as Sky, with his soap opera star good looks and deep, resonant voice. His masculine ease makes him believable as both the ladies' man and man's man that Sky is meant to be.
Jill Taylor Anthony is adorable as Adelaide. She may play her character strictly for laughs, but Adelaide's love for Nathan is played in earnest. This makes her all the more endearing, and her comic timing only seals the deal. Though a strong actress and singer, she does not appear as strong in the dance department. Adelaide should be the most dynamic, if not the most technically gifted Hot Box dancer, as she is the star. Her choreography falls short of achieving this goal. While the choreography is at its best in "Crap Shooter's Ballet" and in the "Havana" specialty dance, in both cases it feels lacking in depth as it is forced too far down stage by a scrim.
Justin Lore has the right edge as the fast-talking Nathan, but needs to slow down just a bit to get his laughs. Lore is supported by some of the other males in creating the right image of the colorful characters born in the mind of Damon Runyon. Phil Gosselin as Nicely-Nicely and Brian Padgett as Benny Southstreet are a good comedic team in moments like "Guys & Dolls." Gosselin's tenor voice rings out clearly in "Fugue For Tinhorns" and "Guys & Dolls." He is perhaps not yet quite seasoned enough as an actor to make "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat" the show-stopper it can be. Brian Padgett clearly embraces the intended comedic style of the character Benny Southstreet, complete with slack-jawed double-takes and buffoonish laugh. Casting a diminutive Jack Livesy as Big Jule with a mile high Geoffrey Mergele as Harry the Horse is a great sight gag that adds to the image of the motley crew of gamblers and mobsters.
Costuming and lighting are serviceable but seem a bit uninspired for this production. Though the music is well sung (especially by Amaya) the instrumental tracks so beautifully used for other productions does not seem as full. While there are some minor flaws in this production, and some unevenness in the ensemble, it is an enjoyable show with some stand out moments worth seeing.
Guys And Dolls will be appearing at The Stage Door Theatre through December 4, 2011. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd. in Coral Springs, Florida. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs, and their location in Miami Beach, the Byron Carlyle Theatre, are open year round. The Byron Carlyle Theatre, 500 71st Street, Miami Beach, FL For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or online at www.stagedoortheatre.com.