BWW Reviews: The Playhouse's GUYS AND DOLLS a Fantastic Production of a Musical Theatre Classic
When it comes to the Golden Age of Broadway, there are few shows that are as accessible and wildly entertaining as Guys and Dolls. Since it's debut in 1950, the musical has graced Broadway six times, and there are now reports of a film remake. If the film is half as entertaining as the current production at The Playhouse, audiences will be pleased. The Playhouse's Guys in Dolls is vibrant, joyous, and entertaining from beginning to end.
Director/Choreographer Michelle Pietri certainly has a vision for her production. Unlike the recent Broadway revival which was widely criticized for its joyless and uninspired interpretation of the classic show, Pietri's production is lively and cartoony, just as it should be. Let's be honest. A plot involving a handsome, smooth-talking gambler who falls for a no-nonsense, stern missionary can't be played as a great American drama. Guys and Dolls is meant to be pure, lighthearted comedy, and Pietri understands that. Marcello Martinez's flamboyant, brightly colored set and Samantha Sandifer's slightly exaggerated costumes are in perfect sync with Pietri's take on the show. Pietri's choreography is dazzling, particularly in the vivacious Havana scene and the vigorous Crapshooter's ballet, and her talent towards choreography serves her well in her overall pacing and blocking of the show. But Pietri makes the questionable but ever so minor decision to give almost all of her gangsters a cheesy fake mustache. The mustaches are unnecessary and distracting, and-with a few exceptions-they're worn by the ensemble men and not by any supporting or leading players. Basically, the mustaches are the Guys and Dolls equivalent to the red shirt in Star Trek.
Of the largely mustache-less leads, Chris Berry gives a phenomenal performance as Sky Masterson. Berry gives the character a perfect combination of Marlon Brando's speaking voice (truly the only positive thing about Brando's performance in the 1955 film version) and the signing voice of classic leading men like John Raitt and AlfrEd Drake. Altogether, Berry's portrayal of Sky is charming, slick, and mysterious. As Sarah, Sky's love interest, Caroline Kittrell has the troubling task of breathing life into the most undeveloped character in the show. On paper, Sarah's nothing but a scowling sourpuss. Thankfully, Kittrell finds a somewhat sympathetic and confident woman in there, and her soprano singing voice is exceptional.
As the iconic Miss Adelaide, Paige Blend is a scene-stealer. She's adorable and manages to create a character who's both sultry and cute. While Adelaide can come off as a dumb blonde, Blend gives her a bit more depth than that and never reaches for the obvious jokes. Instead of laughing at Adelaide, we laugh with her as she tries to grab a wedding ring that has eluded her for 14 years. Gerardo Vallejo is just as much the crowd favorite as Blend. Vallejo plays Nicely-Nicely Johnson to hilarious perfection. His rubber-faced expressions and strong comedic timing are infectious, and he earns rousing applause with "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat." Of the leads, there's only one whose gambles don't pay off, and that's Miguel Ochoa as Nathan Detroit. Nathan is supposed to be neurotic, but Ochoa is a bit too fidgety and uncontrolled. He flails his arms to the point where he actually hit one of his fellow cast members in the performance I viewed, and his squeaky line delivery limits the vocal variety and contrast between him and Paige Blend's Adelaide.
But a few mustaches and flailing arms aside, Guys and Dolls is a sparkling production of one of the most beloved musicals of all time. If you have a guy or doll, take them to see this show.