Who wouldn’t love the rollicking music of Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows? A story set in the times of gambling, hot dolls, burlesque and gangsters, throw in wonderful old tunes like, Luck Be a Lady Tonight, Fugue for Tin Horns, A Bushel and a Peck and it’s sure to be an audience pleaser.
Bravo to The Segal Theatre for it’s production of Guys and Dolls.
And Bravo to Director Diana Leblanc for bringing creativity, imagination and, most of all, good, solid entertainment to the forefront in this very ambitious production.
I saw the first preview, so there were the usual glitches – the actors were a little hesitant when they first came out on stage, the pacing a bit off. But once they got into it, we all settled back and enjoyed what was to come.
The story takes place in New York and focuses on the lives of petty criminals and professional gamblers in the late 1940s. Throw in a dash of religious fanatics, determined to save everyone’s soul from the Bowery to Times Square, and the mix makes for a light and fun plot. Doll wants Guy to marry him. Another Guy wants another Doll to run off to Havana with him, on a bet that she wouldn’t. Under all this is a group of undesirables, albeit most of them lovable, who live off gambling.
The voices in the show are excellent and the dance sequences wonderfully well performed with panache and great abandon. Of note, the dance sequence done in Havana when ‘Sarah’ lets all barriers down and discovers another side of herself, is a knock out, and will have you up on your feet shouting Hallelujah!
Tracy Michailidis as ‘Sarah Brown’, leading those who would save lost souls from hell-fire at The Save a Soul Mission, moves smoothly from her ‘holier than thou’ preachings to someone who recognizes that even those with a little darkness in them may also have a touch of the light of goodness. She has an outstanding voice that, at times, almost goes into operatic mode. (Although that is not required for the role.)
Susan Henley, playing ‘Adelaide’, also has a lovely voice. She approaches the role with great truth. However, this is a gem of a part – One of the best character roles for women in a musical. The songs ‘Adelaide’ sings, the lines she says, demand a ‘boop-boop-de-do’ attack and sound to them, along with a common New York accent creating a character that is very different to that of the well spoken ‘Sarah’. Sadly, these two characteristics were lacking in Henley’s performance.
Both Scott Wentworth and Frank Moore are well cast in the roles of ‘Sky Masterson’ and ‘Nathan Detroit’ playing off each other like craps rolling sevens – leaving ‘Big Julie’ to grovel with his snake eyes.
(‘Big Julie’, played by Massimo, certainly looked the part. But he failed to back it up with any sense of the character’s much needed power.)
Mike Patterson, as ‘Nicely-Nicely Johnson’, is the personification of ‘dare to do’. He has the role down pat. Gets right out there and belts ‘em out. He does a fine job with ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’, near the end of the show.
Choreography by Jim White and his wonderful dance ensemble brings life, fun and technical perfection to the stage, setting the celebration of the times and of the off-hour characters that inhabit the period. Let’s take a little notice of someone who is a fine cog on the wheel of the rest of the supporting cast – Jenny Brizard who appears as ‘The Paper Boy’ and one of the ‘Cuban Dancers’, brings her own personality, her energy and enthusiasm to her roles and takes us along on her warm, steady ride.
The wonderful, singable music and lyrics of Frank Loesser were well supported by a fine-tuned orchestra led by Nick Burgess.
Finally, the set by Michael Eagan is simple and expressive and has been designed in a way that the actors are able to put the entire stage to use. This is a cast of 24, working on a small stage. That’s no easy task. But Eagan accomplished this without the stage ever seeming crowded. There is a scrim hiding the orchestra, another with an abstract painting of New York depicting the names of businesses one might find on the streets of New York in that bustling era of good times. There is a third: A gorgeous deep red curtain of the era. The red curtain is the audience’s first vision of the stage when walking into the auditorium and sets the time and place of the musical. The whole feeling takes us back to a time of burlesque, strip joints, gamblers and…Guys and Dolls.
N.B. Leave your guns at the door, let loose and enjoy!