Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Guys and Dolls centers on a group of colorful New York City natives which includes a pair of gamblers and the ladies in their lives. Nathan Detroit needs $1,000 to secure the location for his next floating crap game, which he doesn't have. So he strikes a bet with fellow high-roller Sky Masterson, who is known to bet on anything, that Sky won't be able to get a girl that Nathan chooses to go to dinner with him. Sky takes the challenge, only to find that the girl Nathan picks is the pious leader of the local Save-a-Soul missionary, Sarah Brown, who is trying to save the souls of the gamblers in the area.
Nathan has romantic problems of his own, due to his impatient fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide. Pressure mounts when the notorious bachelor Sky finds himself actually falling for Sarah and when Adelaide begins to doubt Nathan's intentions. Also, Sarah's future is in jeopardy when the mission is on the verge of being shut down.
Composer Frank Loesser and bookwriters Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows based the musical on the short stories of Damon Runyon. This gifted cast, under Cambrian James' clear direction, ensure Runyon's colorful and humorous characters are more than just cartoon creations. The songs in Loesser's exceptional score, which includes such well-known showstoppers as "Luck Be a Lady," "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," and the title song, sound sensational under Cathy Hauan's music direction, which derives lush harmonies from the cast.
As the two main couples, Austin Delp and Hannah Marie Harmon ooze romance as Sky and Sarah, and Matthew R. Harris and Heidi-Liz Johnson are comically delicious as Nathan and Adelaide. Delp and Harmon have voices that soar on their several romantic duets, while Harris and Johnson wring every ounce of humor from their comical lines and situations. Delp and Harmon's vocal abilities are superb and the growing romance between Sky and Sarah is realistically depicted by the duo. Harris doesn't miss a beat in finding the humor in his frantic character, who constantly finds himself in frenzied situations. Johnson's rendition of "Adelaide's Lament" is a knock-out and her duet with Harris, "Sue Me," is comic gold.
The ensemble features gifted comical actors who are also exceptional vocalists, including Jere Van Patten as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who brings down the house with an exuberant "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," and Jared Kitch, who is sensational as Benny Southstreet with a deep and beautiful singing voice that excels. Also, Tom Endicott is warm and sincere as Sarah's grandfather; Raymond Barcelo is hilarious as Harry the Horse (his whining neighs are a hilarious added touch); and Kathleen Richards is firm and fun as the Salvation Army general who shows up unexpectedly. Allan DeWitt and Mac Hawbaker each get a moment or two to shine as the gangsters who get involved with Nathan's craps game, and J. Roger Wood is appropriately frustrated as the police lieutenant who is on the gambler's trail.
James' choreography is lively and upbeat, and his wigs and make-up, along with Gabrielle Sciabbarrasi's fun costumes, are period perfect. Brian Daily's set designs, along with Jessica Ottley's gorgeous projections, ground the show in 1950s New York City, and Tim Dietlein's lighting delivers a nice combination of sunny, warm colors for the daytime scenes and cool tones for the scenes set late at night.
With a sensational cast, expert direction and choreography, and superb creative elements, Hale Centre Theatre offers a winning production of this classic musical comedy.
Guys and Dolls runs through March 28, 2020, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Directed and Choreographed by Cambrian James