Guys andDolls, book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows (based on The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown and characters by Damon Runyon); music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Directed by Malcom Ewen. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"Sit Down, Your Rockin' the Boat" with Matt Wolpe; photo: Hubert Schriebl
"...to have a home with wallpaper. . .and bookends!"
Matt Wolpe, Jim Raposa, Samuel Lloyd, Jr., Geoffrey Wade; photo: Hubert Schriebl
Everybody wants something in this "musical fable of Broadway," known as Guys and Dolls which is currently on the stage at the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont. What they want is made manifestly clear in song, dance and dialogue. What I want is everyone to understand that this is my most seen musical - this is my eighteenth production of it since the hallowed original. I now go to a performance knowing exactly how something should look, exactly how something should sound and exactly what each minor reference is and how it should be presented. Therefore when a small, yet major, mistake was made in the opening song, "Fugue for Tinhorns" I bristled. A physical reference was totally wrong giving the wrong impression. It was combined with the use of incorrectly formatted props. I stopped paying attention to the show immediately. The score is so good, though, that I just wanted to listen.
However, that all changed in scene four, "At the Hat Box" - the nightclub where Miss Adelaide works. This scene was so splendid that all I cared about after that was the show in general and not in specific and I moved ahead and had a rolicking good time with the show itself.
Character faces and bodies are not always the most attractive elements and when the leading man is so completely "character" it can be difficult to get into the relationship problems that make them interesting in the first place. Samuel Lloyd, Jr. is just such a character actor. He consistently is interesting, you just can't imagine why anyone as pretty and smart as Miss Adelaide, played handsomely here by Marissa McGowan, could be interested enough in the man to spend fourteen years engaged to him. Lloyd has a fine voice and in his duet, "Sue Me" with Adelaide he is more adept and musically intriguing than is usual in this role.
McGowan is lovely. She sings and dances and acts the role of the mis-used mistress with so much style that the usually endearing character of Adelaide becomes even more a pleasure. While Sarah Brown may be the main character in the play, she is definitely put into second place with McGowan's fine performance. Sarah Brown is played very well by Andrea Prestinario. This young actress has a big, lyric soprano voice with a belt, and sober or drunk Sarah takes the stage and holds it. When she and Adelaide sing their duet the humor in the words is buoyed up by the strength in their voices.
In love with Sarah Brown is Sky Masterson played here by Sean Palmer. A handsome man with a graceful manner and a gracious tenor voice he is the ideal leading man for this show. He adds a certain level of class to the gambler he plays and it is no surprise when he returns at the end of the show in a new suit with a new job.
Matt Wolpe is a show-stopper as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Jim Raposa does well as Benny Southstreet. D'Ambrose Boyd is a formidable Big Jule. Dorothy Stanley is a surprise as General Cartwright, singing high descant melodies with gusto. Michael Seltzer is appropriately smarmy as Harry the Horse and Stephen Lee Anderson is endearing as Arvide.
The rest of the company does well in their many roles. In fact, the cast of this show makes the show enjoyable. Howard C. Jones has designed a perfect set, not the usual cartoon of New York, but a stylized version of the Times Square area instead. Karen Ann Ledger has provided stylistically ideal costumes, defining each character in a visual way. Ann G. Wrightson's lighting was rough and raw and not the best this theater has provided. Ed Chapman's sound design kept things in balance, if a bit loud.
Michael Raine's choreography was excellent considering the size of the stage and the capabilities of the performers. His use of athleticism in the ballets was quite wonderful, in fact. This is one of those fine early examples of a show where the songs and the dances evolve from the dialogue seamlessly and director Malcolm Ewen has made the most of this fine writing with his capable cast. There is a fine quality here of song needing to happen. Ewen has defined the musical moments through the dramatic necesities and it makes a theatrical event that is more than just fine, it is right at every turn.
You can't get a better score than this one. You won't have a chance to hear these roles better defined. You shouldn't miss the chance to see this reality-based edition of a fine show about a class of characters that you might think no longer exist. They still do. They can be found in eastern Vermont. It's worth the trip to Weston.
Stephen Lee Anderson, Andrea Prestinario (on soap box) with Carly Swenson, Mackenzie Jones, Kelly Autry; photo: Hubert Schriebl
Marissa McGowan with Hannah Flam, Mackenzie Jones, Felicity Stiverson, Carly Swenson; photo: Tim Fort
Guys and Dollsplays through August 22 at the Weston Playhouse on the square in Weston, Vermont. For tickets and information call the box office at 802-824-5288 or go on line at westonplayhouse.org.