BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Music Theatre Wichita

BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Music Theatre Wichita

BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Music Theatre Wichita

BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Music Theatre Wichita

BWW Review: GUYS AND DOLLS at Music Theatre Wichita

If you love classic musical comedy, then you MUST SEE MTW's production of Guys and Dolls in the Concert Hall at Century II. It is a delightfully entertaining piece, with strong performances throughout the show. I attended Thursday night's performance and was not disappointed. The gorgeous, colorful cartoon-like forced perspective Tony award winning set, designed for the 1992 Broadway Revival by Tony Walton, could have easily upstaged the action, but thanks to Mark Madama's meticulous direction, Mara Newbery Greer's perfectly symmetrical, canon style choreography, and clever vocal direction by Thomas W. Douglas, the show ran smoothly at a sprightly pace, keeping the audience engaged at every turn. Madama coaxes some very realistic performances from his actors, giving these cartoon-like characters some very real human moments.

For the uninitiated, here's the plot in a nutshell: Nathan Detroit, a gambler, searches the streets of Manhattan for cash to fund his "permanent floating crap game" while attempting to dodge the law, Lt. Brannigan. Detroit's "Doll," Miss Adelaide, a nightclub performer, frustrated with their 14 year engagement, wants him to marry her and settle down to the white picket fence life. Nathan bumps into the smooth Sky Masterson and arranges a bet to secure the needed cash. This bet causes Masterson to pursue "Mission Doll" Sarah Brown, and hilarity insues.

Guys and Dolls is one of my favorite musicals, and I always have a beef with directors who abandon the old school New York accent for the "Guys" and Miss Adelaide, which is a must in getting the cadence of the Runyonesqe dialogue right. This is not the case in MTW's production, where great care has been given to the phrasing and delivery of these lines. The dialogue is like butter in Matt Bogart's mouth. Bogart, a talented actor who has graced Broadway and Regional stages, and appeared in both television hits Vinyl and Smash, imbues his Sky Masterson with a wonderfully sexy edge. He plays Sky with great ease, and his strong yet warm voice help complete the seduction. Playing opposite Bogart is Kerry Conte, and their chemistry is sublime. Conte infuses her Sarah Brown with a classic old school musical theatre/Disney soprano, showing great range in her vocal abilities. From Conte's straight laced b rendition of I'll Know, to the seductive warmth If I Were a Bell, where she allows an intoxicated Sarah to let down her guard and live a little, it is a joy to watch her build Sarah's character.

Jenni Barber serves up Miss Adelaide with quite a selection of vocal inflection. Coming to us from the revival of Sunday In The Park With George starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Barber takes us on a fabulous journey as well. Barber's rendition of Take Back Your Mink starts out as a dramatic reading, morphs into a sexy growl, and returns to Adelaide's trademark childish high pitched New York accented squeals. Local favorite and Mosely Street Melodrama/Roxy's Downtown regular Monte Riegel Wheeler rounds out this dynamic cast, playing Nathan Detroit with superb comic timing and arch delivery. One of my favorite moments occurred in Sue Me, an epic battle of the wills between Nathan and Adelaide, which nearly stopped the show.

Rounding out the characters is an endless array of old school mugs, and I would be remiss if I did not mention them all! Justin Robinson, BWW's Squigs, is a delightful Nicely-Nicely Johnson, delivering a scintillating performance of Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat. He is aided and abetted by Betti O., a Manhattan, KS actress, who serves up a devilishly good General Cartwright. Nicholas Saverine plays Arvide Abernathy as a classic elderly Mission Gentleman, a total 360 from his funky Monsignor O'Hara in Sister Act! Steve Hitchcock, who gives a wonderful comic turn as Benny Southstreet, and Elon student Jake Smith as Rusty Charlie, round out the classic Fugue for Tinhorns. Another Elon student, Michael Dikegoros, was a standout as Harry the Horse. Local actors Tim Robu (Big Jule) and John Boldenow (Lt. Brannigan) turn in solid comedic performances, and the very cute Olga Esquivel-Holman was a charming Joey Biltmore. There is even a cameo from Russ Widener (Mission Band)! There was also excellent ensemble work by the young singers and dancers of the resident company.

There is so much good work to recommend this production. Other highlights for me included A Bushel and a Peck, which sported some cute old school choreography. I loved the surprise at the beginning of Act 2 Scene 6, which contains the Marry the Man. The number was delicious, with excellent chemistry between Conte (Sarah) and Barber (Adelaide). The set, which contained many clever surprises, was deftly lit by David Neville. The colorful costumes were provided by Maine State Music Theatre Costume Rentals, and coordinated by WSU grad Abby Stroot. Sound by Ryan Morrow was on point.

If you love classic musical comedy, DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!! Guys and Dolls runs until Sunday, July 1st, with performances Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 7pm. There are Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased online at https://mtow-internet.choicecrm.net/templates/MTOW/?event#/events , by calling 316.265.3107, or by visiting the box office on the first floor of Century II. Upcoming shows include Disney's Freaky Friday, July 11-15; Pippin, July 25-29; and Disney's The Little Mermaid, August 8-18.

There is also an upcoming cabaret, StarNight, on July 7th at 8pm in the Mary Jane Teall Theatre. The show is titled Defying Gravity: The Songs of Steven Schwartz, featuring members of the 2018 Resident Company. Admission is $20, and there is also a $50 VIP ticket. Please call the Box Office for details. There will also be an Open Mic Night at Mosley Street Melodrama on Friday, July 13, at 10:45pm following Freaky Friday. Admission is free.

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From This Author Paula Makar

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