Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's recenter review of The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
While the Kennedy Center began the Broadway Center Stage series as semi-staged performances of musicals, with the performers using scripts as needed, this Guys and Dolls is the complete package, down to the 22 onstage musicians performing Frank Loesser's classic score. Marc Bruni has provided sharp-eyed direction and Denis Jones high-flying choreography, and the stage-filling cast is headlined by Tony Award winners James Monroe Iglehart and Jessie Mueller, Tony nominee Phillipa Soo, and Lucille Lortel Award winner Steven Pasquale.
Probably everyone reading this has seen some version of the classic 1950 musical, adapted from the works of Damon Runyon by bookwriters Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It's one of the jewels of 1950s Broadway with Loesser's score and a plot with a great many components, all of which are necessary to reach the satisfying resolution. This production hits all the right notes.
The spectacle begins with the overture and choreographed "Runyonland" opening number, illuminated by Paul Tate dePoo III's immersive projections of 1950s Times Square. He also designed the minimal scenic elements, primarily walls and doors, but the projections propel the plot: for example, the shifting pastel views of Havana as gambler Sky Masterson (Pasquale) and principled missionary Sgt. Sarah Brown (Soo) sightsee and, during a visit to a café, cause a stir among the dancers (costumed by Mara Blumenfeld in coordinated shades of yellow, gold and orange).
The other leads are Nathan Detroit (Iglehart), the dyspeptic operator of "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York," and his "well-known fiancée," nightclub star Miss Adelaide (Mueller). While all four leads are comfortable in their roles, Mueller has hilariously nailed Adelaide's brassiness, nasal voice, and persistent sinus issues (a waiter at her club is always nearby to provide a box of tissues). Strong support comes from Kevin Chamberlin as portly, slightly pompous Nicely-Nicely Johnson; Matthew Saldivar and Akron Watson as his sidekicks Benny Southstreet and Rusty Charlie; and, in a bit of inspired casting, Rachel Dratch as diminutive but deadly mobster Big Jule.
Jones has done a fine job staging the nightclub performances, but the larger-scale numbers make more of an impact. In addition to the Havana sequence, the muscular "Crapshooters' Dance" and the raucous "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" rock the room.
The Broadway Center Stage production of Guys and Dolls runs through October 16, 2022, in the Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
Directed by Marc Bruni