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BWW Reviews: FAC's GUYS AND DOLLS is Good Old-Fashioned Fun

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Guys and Dolls is one of those shows everyone eventually encounters. Long a staple of repertory companies, community theaters, and high school drama clubs (mine did it senior year), featuring standards like "A Bushel and a Peck" and "I've Never Been in Love Before," it bears all the comforts and curses of being familiar. Its assemblage of shady reprobates feels quaint-only one of them carries a gun, and nobody engages in anything worse than some underground gaming-and the battle-of-the-sexes plot points have been worn into cliché by a thousand sitcoms and commercials since its premiere sixty-five years ago.

But there's a reason why Guys and Dolls is such a warhorse: it works. This is classic musical comedy at its finest: cheerful, tuneful, and just plain fun, buoyed by a delightful Frank Loesser score that combines sharp patter, soaring ballads, and arguably the most toe-tapping eleven o'clock number ever written. It's the kind of show that, when done right, puts a big smile on your face from beginning to end, and Scott Levy and the FAC company do it right. Playing into the inherently stylized nature of the piece, Levy keeps the style jazzy and brisk, much like Christopher Sheley's bright-colored, neon-trimmed street scene. This is a New York that never existed except in the dream of Broadway shows like this one, and it's an irresistibly charming place to visit.

The show depends on a quartet of strong leads, different in vocal and dramatic style but equally essential to the plot. The heart of this particular production rests in Jennifer DeDominici as Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah Brown. DeDominici's Sarah is a strong, passionate person, whether she's eagerly calling sinners to repentance, coolly resisting the advances of Sky Masterson, or revealing a wild streak after a few too many "Dulce de Leches" in Havana. As Sky, Nathan Halvorson's Brando-esque cool occasionally falls flat, but he really comes to life when he sings. He and DeDominici display palpable chemistry ("Yeah, chemistry") in "I'll Know," and he delivers a fierce, virile rendition of "Luck Be a Lady." Cory Moosman and Amy Sue Hardy are the comedy to this drama as Nathan Detroit his long-suffering, long-engaged sweetheart Adelaide. Both give a hilarious rendition of "Sue Me," and Hardy recovers from some lyrical stumbles to sell a powerhouse rendition of "Adelaide's Lament."

One of the things that makes Guys and Dolls appeal to school groups is its excellent opportunities for ensemble work, and Levy has collected a solid team of harmonizing gamblers, squeaky chorines, and dogged missionaries. Standouts include Janson Fangio as Chicago mafioso Big Jule (here portrayed as a Joe Pesci-esque wise guy in a fur-trimmed coat) and Kevin Pierce as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who gets to perform that great eleven o'clock song "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." Pierce is trimmer than the type usually cast in this role originated by Stubby Kaye, which isn't a problem-although leaving in a few offhand comments about Nicely-Nicely's weight is.

Guys and Dolls is a family-friendly show, and indeed several opening night attendees brought children who might very well have been experiencing this material for the first time. If so, they've received a fine introduction to one of the all-time classics of the genre.

The Fine Arts Center production of GUYS AND DOLLS plays now through June 14th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-634-5581 or visit csfineartscenter.org.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kearney


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From This Author Christi Esterle

Christi Esterle is a Colorado native, geek, and a theater fan ever since she saw her older cousin performing in a high school production of (read more...)