BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Candlelight Theatre
GUYS AND DOLLS, at Candlelight through February 24, opened on Broadway in 1950 and is front and center in the pantheon of American musical theatre. I had forgotten how much I treasure this show. The book was an adaptation of Damon Runyon's short short stories written in the 1920s and 1930s and centered on gangsters, gamblers, and other characters of the New York underworld. Runyon was known for the unique dialect he employed in his stories, mixing highly formal language and slang and his books are drop dead laugh out loud. Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser range from of the greatest production numbers ever, "Sit Down Your Rocking The Boat" to the hysterical "Adelaide's Lament" to the poignant and touching "More I Cannot Wish You".
Marlon Brando played and sang (ugh!) leading man Sky Masterson in the movie, perhaps the worst miscasting of a lead role in a movie musical surpassed only by Russel Crowe in LES MIS. (Oh, add Johnny Depp in SWEENEY TODD).
Candlelight's production begins with an energetic and frenetic pantomime of never-ceasing activities that depicts the hustle and bustle of New York City ("Runyonland") staged by veteran director S. Lee Lewis. Three small-time gamblers, Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Philip Wilson), Benny Southstreet (Timothy Moudy) and Rusty Charlie (Chris Fitting) argue over which horse will win a big race in a very harmonious "Fugue for Tinhorns".
Gambler Nathan Detroit (Shaun Yates) has few options for the location of his big craps game. Needing $1,000 to pay a garage owner to host the game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson (Bob Miller) that Sky cannot get puritanical Sarah Brown (Julia Kershetsky, making her Candlelight debut)) out on a date. Despite some resistance, Sky negotiates a date with her in exchange for bringing people into her mission. Meanwhile, Nathan's longtime fiancée, Adelaide (Rebecca Schall), wants him to go legit and marry her.
Soon there develops a chemistry between Sky and Sarah and eventually everything is hotsy totsy. Kershetsky displays a lovely voice in their duet, "I'll Know", Miller did a fine job in the solo "My Time of Day" and the two soared in "I've Never Been in Love Before".
Sarah is the head of the 'Save A Soul Mission' in the heart of the 42nd Street replete with gangsters, gamblers and grifters; wire tappers and knee cappers. There is pressure on Sarah to find a soul and save it by the imperious General Matilda Cartwright (the always funny Victoria Healy).
Damon Runyon created classic sayings in his own vernacular, "He would not give you the right time if he had two watches", "the two are fraternizing, which means being social without your clothes on", "about as useful as dandruff' Many of these axioms are part of the script. I was looking for more Brooklynese and characterizations from the majority of these lovable gangsters. Yates' Nathan had only one speed - fast and loud. His character would have more substance with nuance. On the other hand, Big Jule (Jim Rubright) balanced both a menacing demeanor AND the right mix of comedic delivery.
The star of the show is Miss Adelaide (Rebecca Schall). In her "Lament", she brought back memories of Vivian Blaine from the movie. Her accent, her eye rolls, her contorted lips and expressions were not only impassioned and endearing but also wickedly funny.
One questions the choice of the hat on Lt. Brannigan (Jim Conte). Was not aware Times Square gumshoes wore neon yellow fedoras. Across the board the Save A Soul costumes need to go through alterations.
Lisa Miller Challenger continues her excellence in wig design. Jeff Reim's imaginative set morphs from "Save A Soul Mission" to the bowels of Broadway with great facility.
Choreographer Jody Anderson did a wonderful job with her Hot Box girls (Kaity McSalis, Liberty Laferriere, Natasha Truitt), in the rousing "A Bushel and A Peck" and the always crowd-pleasing "Take Back Your Mink". In those numbers, the Hot Box Girls and Miss Adelaide had atytude!! As Runyon once commented, "those dames have more fur than a tribe of Eskimos".
Set Designer Jeff Reim's pastel sliding sets created facility with silhouetted changing scenes from 42nd Street to the bowels of Brooklyn.
There appeared to be more variety in the sumptuous buffet line this show. And, my beloved mashed potatoes with a touch of garlic were fluffy and yumalicious.
Through February 24. Candlelighttheatre 302.475.2313