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Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Des Moines Playhouse

Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Des Moines Playhouse

Guys and Dolls is a vibrant and colorful retelling of this classic fable of Broadway.

Everyone has a memory of the first musical they were in or saw. For me, it was either "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella," if i remember correctly, at a local high school. For others, their first memories with musical theatre come through local productions of "Guys and Dolls." Des Moines Playhouse is opening its 104th season with a bright and colorful production of "Guys and Dolls" that brings a new take for those who already have memories of the show while introducing it to a new generation of people to the show for the first time.

"Guys and Dolls" tells the story of gamblers in a heightened version of New York in the 1930s. It centers around Nathan Detroit, who is looking for a place to hold his crap game. His problem is that not only is he trying to hide this from his "doll," Adelaide, but he is also in need of a place to hold his illegal game. The only place he can get wants $1000 upfront. While talking with fellow gamblers Nicely Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, he comes up with an idea. He will bet with Sky Masterson, who won't turn down a good bet, that he can't lose. He bets Sky $1000 that he can't get Sarah Brown, a missionary at the Save-A-Soul Mission, to go out to dinner with him in Havana. Is this truly a bet he can't lose? To find out, you'll have to head to Des Moines Playhouse to see.

Director Katy Merriman has done a fantastic job of tapping into the idea of this show being a fable. This is seen through the heightened and colorful sets and costumes to the cast of all ages. It helps the audience buy into the idea of this fanciful New York. We start seeing this fable on stage through the colorful sets of Teena Sauvola that seem like they could have been ripped straight out of a comic book. One of the parts of the set I enjoyed was the two-dimensional marquees of different theatres in New York. The marquees are instantly recognizable to those in the audience who have been to New York. The characters pop on stage in colorful costumes designed by Angela Lampe.

The cast is full of some of the most talented Guys and Dolls in Des Moines. Under the excellent music direction of Tina Hasse Findlay, bring some of musical theatre's most iconic songs to the stage. Leading the Guys of the cast was Greg Millar as Nicely Nicely Johnson, Gavin Runles as Benny Southstreet, Giovanni Bahena as Nathan Detroit, and Even Schettler as Sky Masterson. Each has moments throughout the show that allows their characters to shine on stage. One of my favorite moments came from Greg Millar's show-stopping "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat." It is a special treat for audiences to see and hear.

The cast also features some fantastic Dolls. Both Kaelan Bohn as Miss Adelaide and Taylor Anne Layden as Sarah Brown took their characters and gave us larger-than-life takes that audiences might not be used to with these characters, and I loved every minute of it. Both have powerful, belting voices that audiences may not normally associate with these characters but works beautifully with the score.

Whether it's your first time seeing "Guys and Dolls" or if you are returning for another trip to this musical fable, there is something for everyone in this production. From the direction to the sets and costumes to the cast, each aspect comes together to make for a thoroughly enjoyable performance that will have audiences leaving the theatre humming these fun tunes. I did it for at least a week after seeing the show. Make sure to get your tickets soon because this production is only here for a limited time, through October 2.


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Latest Standings Released For The 2022 BroadwayWorld Des Moines Awards; Des Moines Playhou Photo
The latest standings as of Monday, December 5th, have been released for the 2022 BroadwayWorld Des Moines Awards! Nominations were reader-submitted and now our readers get to vote for their favorites.

GO, DOG. GO! Comes to Des Moines Playhouse Next Year Photo
Big dogs and little dogs. Dogs on bikes and dogs wearing hats. Where are they going fast in those cars? PD Eastman's classic children's book comes to life on stage like a pop-up book that never stops.

HANSEL AND GRETEL Comes to Des Moines Playhouse Next Month Photo
Nibble, nibble like a mouse, who’s that nibbling on my house? Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods, looking for a Christmas tree to decorate their tiny house, when they come upon a delicious confectionary candy cottage. They just want to taste a little bit and go home, but Ginger the silly witch has other ideas.

Review: COME FROM AWAY at Des Moines Performing Arts Photo
In 2012 a little musical that could started its trek to Broadway. After a successful 2012 workshop at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, this show went to La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Its journey continued with stops at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC and the Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto before arriving on Broadway in March 2017. When it opened on Broadway, it opened with a relatively unknown cast, but its story captured quickly captured the hearts of its audience. That show is 'Come From Away.' The tour is making its second stop in Des Moines from November 22-27 and is perfect for this Thanksgiving holiday.


From This Author - DC Felton

David Felton has been involved in theatre since his middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. Throughout high school he stayed onstage, and once he got to college he started exploring thebackst... (read more about this author)


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