BWW Review: The Bethany Stage's GUYS AND DOLLS Features Stand-Out Performances
The Bethany Stage, a relatively New Theatre Company in the Oklahoma City metro area, presented their first musical production, GUYS AND DOLLS. The now-familiar story of Nathan, Adelaide, Sky, and Sarah has been revived often on Broadway since its original production in 1950. While the plot may be a little thin by today's standards, Frank Loesser's score stands the test of time, including standards like "A Bushel and a Peck", "I've Never Been In Love Before", and the iconic "Luck Be A Lady." In fact, almost every song listed in the program has gone on to have a life outside the show, being recorded by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra (who starred in the film version of the show.) Well, let me assure you, the beloved score is in capable hands at The Bethany Stage. Music director Steve Elkins Kennedy has assembled a tiny-but-mighty band (a rarity nowadays in theaters at this level) and it's especially nice to hear a musical being performed acoustically with no microphones - the natural voices and instrumentation were never difficult to hear. The vocal ensemble sounds spectacular, especially the male chorus; in fact it's difficult to recall the last time I heard a non-professional theatre with so many strong male voices on one stage. Kudos to Kennedy and director Audra Faust for assembling such a cast.
And about that cast: the four leads of the show - Alex Bolerjack as Sky, Elizabeth Dragoo as Sarah, Jeremy Sheets as Nathan, and Kim Thomas as Adelaide - carry the show nicely. Sheets' Nathan Detroit is appropriately weaselly and high-strung, showcasing his comedic timing in scenes with sidekicks Benny (Peter Fischaber) and Nicely-Nicely (Lance Overdorff, who also deserves special recognition for his soaring tenor in the ensemble and his eleven-o'clock number "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat".) Kim Thomas' portrayal of Adelaide is adorably scatterbrained, and she (along with the other Hot Box Girls) makes the most of choreographer Emily Brown's lively staging in "Bushel And A Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink." Alex Bolerjack, as the debonair Sky Masterson, really nailed the suave ladies' man with a hidden heart of gold, and his classically trained baritone truly shines, especially in his solo "My Time Of Day." I found the strongest all-around performance of the evening to be Dragoo's Sarah Brown. It helps that her character has the biggest and most believable journey in the show, but Dragoo utilized Sarah's arc to its full advantage. While many actors I've seen in other productions convey the buttoned-up soprano missionary as cold and distant, Dragoo unveiled a woman longing to connect, especially letting loose in her belty, silly performance of "If I Were A Bell."
On the technical side, though the set definitely could've used a bigger budget and a bit more creativity, the costumes were very nice, their bright colors matching the 1950s cartoonish feeling of the plot and performances. Artistic Director Audra Faust has led this fledgling theatre company to a successful first musical production, and I look forward to more from her group of players. Be sure to check out their Fall performances of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest; information on future shows and classes can be found at www.thebethanystage.com
Photo credit: John Huntington