Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
On October 20th, I had the great pleasure of seeing the New Haven Symphony Orchestra present a concert version of Guys and Dolls at the Hamden Middle School in Hamden CT. Under the fine musical direction of William Boughton, the orchestra sounded wonderful playing Frank Loesser's classic score. What's more, this concert version also contained a great deal of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows' book, so one really got an idea of the story of the musical, in addition to the songs. Wendy Morgan-Hunter directed a splendid cast in this delightful adaptation.
What truly made this Guys and Dolls work so well was the skill of the four performers who took on the leading roles. Not only was their singing wonderful, but their acting excelled as well. In the role of Sky Masterson, Steve Valenzuela was just about perfect, capturing the essence of the character and looking sleek and handsome. He delivered all of his numbers with a strong voice, especially "Luck Be a Lady" and "My Time of Day." His presence recalled such actors as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
In the role of Nathan Detroit, Curt Olds was a master of the comedy lines, and scored greatly in the song "The Oldest Established" and in his second act duet with Alia Hodge's Adelaide, "Sue Me," which was sung to a fare-the-well. Nathan Detroit has the smallest amount of music in the show, but Olds proved to be a top-notch musical comedy performer. And, although there was no costume credit in the program, both Olds and Valenzuela looked like 1950s gamblers in their stylish suits, which also distinguished the supporting cast of male performers. These included Charlie Widmer, Jeffrey Hunter and Joe Bertolino, all looking to be from the period and all excellent.
Gary Harger, who was so wonderful as Henry Higgins in the recent New Haven Symphony Orchestra concert production of My Fair Lady, shone in two vastly different roles: he played both Harry the Horse and the kindly part of Arvide, Sarah Brown's grandfather. Indeed, Harger delivered a beautiful rendition of Arvide's song, "More I Cannot Wish You," which was a real highlight in the show. Finally, as the narrator of the concert, as well as playing the part of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Brian Cheney, despite a scratchy microphone, was superb, especially in the big showstopper, "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat."
Megan Osterhaus Bolan made for a suitably starchy Sarah Brown, who, during the course of the musical, definitely gets to loosen up and unbend. Bolan sang with a glorious soprano, making such songs as "If I Were a Bell" and her duet with Sky, "I've Never Been in Love Before" simply terrific. This actress also shared a duet with the Alia Hodge's Miss Adelaide, "Marry the Man Today," which was probably my favorite song in the concert.
Speaking of Miss Adelaide, it is a joy to report that Alia Hodge found all of the laughs in the role, and was touching when she needed to be. Hodge delivered a fantastic "Adelaide's Lament" and looked and sounded ideal in the Hot Box numbers, "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink." In the small part of General Cartwright, Elaine C. Carroll was all you could ask for. A credit also goes to the Musical Theatre Department Students of Southern Connecticut State University, who served as Hot Box girls and crapshooters, as needed.
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra concert production of Guys and Dolls was blissful, from beginning to end, and benefitted greatly from the included scene work.
For more information about the New Haven Symphony Orchestra's upcoming series of concerts, please visit www.newhavensymphony.org.