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BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS is a Sure Hit at The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse

The Crapshooter's Ballet from the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's production of Guys and Dolls. Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr.

The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse has officially kicked off their 2017 season of Broadway in the Finger Lakes with none other than the multiple Tony Award-winning musical of Guys and Dolls. Featuring a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, along with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, the musical is widely known thanks to numerous revivals and the film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine, and of course Frank Sinatra. The long-awaited production, perfectly directed by Richard J. Hinds, as part of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival is classic and fresh, making it a sure hit.

The story centers around the gangsters, gamblers, and other riff-raff who love and live off the night life in New York City. There are always moments of excitement since it is set in one of the most energizing and diverse cities in the world. Enter Nathan Detroit (Carlos Lopez), a gambler who runs an illegal floating crap game. He is having issues finding a place for the game due to strong monitoring by Lt. Brannigan (Josh Katzker).

Nathan and his employees Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jefferson Behan) and Benny (Danny Lindgren) have found one place for the crap game, the Biltmore Garage. However, Nathan is broke and does not have the$1,000 to secure the location. Nathan bets a top gambler, Sky Masterson (Michael Lomenda), the $1,000 that he must take a Sarah Brown (Traci Bair), a missionary worker, to Havana, Cuba. Nathan believes this a sure thing because a doll like Sarah would never go with a gambler like Sky.

Along with worrying about the location for his crap game and lack of funds, Nathan is also dealing with a fourteen-year engagement to Miss Adelaide (Julie Cardia), the lead singer at The Hot Box Nightclub.

The show has unlikely romances, gambling, gangsters, and of course unforgettable musical moments making it non-stop entertainment.

The story comes to life with ease with help from the detailed and easily transforming set design by Shoko Kambara. A picture of the New York City skyline is used as a backdrop. The lighting by Dan Ozminkowski, and the fabulous live orchestra directed by Corinne Aquilina, allows the audience to be swept away to a land of gangsters, gamblers, and performers in the hustle and bustle of New York City, complete with the familiar favorite musical moments including "Guys and Dolls," "Luck Be a Lady, and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

Carlos Lopez, as Nathan Detroit, is comedic, charming, and confident in role. His stature may be short, which makes many comedic moments all the more entertaining, but his confidence and talent is sky high. This is especially evident in the number "The Oldest Established." His chemistry with Julia Cardia is top notch on "Sue Me." He is a wonderful character actor.

Michael Lomenda, as Sky Masterson, is smooth, confident, and extremely likeable. His voice is top-notch and shines quite well in the "Luck Be a Lady" number. His passionate and expressive vocals ensure "I'll Know" and "I've Never Been in Love Before" - both duets with Traci Blair - are memorable.

Traci Bair, as the missionary Sarah Brown, is sweet and beautiful. She has an amazing soprano voice that soars effortlessly in many of her duets with Lomenda. She charms the audience in "If I Were a Bell." Her duet with Julia Cardia of "Marry the Man Today" is also highly memorable and entertaining. The well poised actress' portrayal of this iconic character is perfection. She embodies everything one would expect to see in Sarah Brown.

At center Miss Adelaide (Julie Cardia) and her Hot Box Girls (Aimee Lane, Jessica Ice, Gabi Stapula, Jen Thiessen) in the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's production of Guys and Dolls. Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr.

The show is full of stellar character actors that steal the spotlight every time they take center stage.

Take, for example, Julia Cardia as Miss Adelaide. She stole the show with her fresh take on Adelaide thanks to her comedic charm, stellar vocals, perfect chemistry, and the list goes on. She is highly hilarious in all of her musical numbers, but the most entertaining ones are "Sue Me" (along with Carlos Lopez) and "Adelaide's Lament." Her Hot Box Nightclub numbers of "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink" along with the Hot Box Girls (Jessica Ice, Aimee Lane, Gabi Stapula, and Jen Thiessen) are memorable as well.

Jefferson Behan, as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, brought down the house with his rendition of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." His powerful and passionate voice, along with the comedic charm, and amazing acting talent make him a definite audience favorite for good reason. Danny Lindgren, as Benny, also gives a memorable performance, and makes an impression on "Guys and Dolls," "Fugue for Tinhorns" and "The Oldest Established."

James Judy, as Arvide Abernathy, delivers a wonderful rendition of "More I Cannot Wish You." Other standouts include Becky Barta as General Cartwright, Aaron Burr as Harry the Horse, Joshua Katzker as Lt. Brannigan, and Wes Webb as Big Jule.

The stellar and intricate choreography by Richard J. Hinds makes "Crapshooter's Ballet" a highlight. The dancers and actors portraying the crapshooters effortlessly twirl and leap across the stage in this high-energy number backed by the powerful orchestra.

The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse has kicked off its season with an energizing, passionate, and toe-tapping production of the classic musical of Guys and Dolls. The show definitely sets the bar high for the rest of the season; it will be a tough one to top.

Guys and Dolls is a definite must-see.

Don't miss your chance to see a professional Broadway-caliber production in Auburn, New York at the renowned Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty minutes with one fifteen minute intermission.

Guys and Dolls runs through June 28, 2017 at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York as part of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. For tickets and information on the present and upcoming productions at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival click here or call the box office at 1-800-457-8897.

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