Coming off a successful 2012 season that emerged with a slight yet welcome profit margin despite harsh economic times, the Shaw Festival's winning formula is to serve up a sure-fire musical hit to help carry the day. On the heels of
My Fair Lady and
Ragtime, the new production of the Tony Award-winning musical
Guys and Dolls will easily maintain that solid tradition. At an afternoon preview performance, with the ensemble gathered on stage during the last number, the appreciate crowd jumped to its feet with a loud, standing ovation that must have produced smiles of glee from artistic director, Jackie Maxwell.
Indeed, Guys and Dolls finishes strongly with the best songs saved for the second act.
Luck be a Lady is sung by Kyle Blair as Sky Masterson, followed by
Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat by Thom Allison as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and
Marry the Man Today by Jenny L. Wright as Miss Adelaide and as Elodie Gillett as Sarah Brown. The Wright-Gillett lyrics are hilarious ("You can't get alterations on a dress you haven't bought; you mustn't squeeze a melon until you get the melon home." And Allison literally knocks his tune out of the park!
The gifted Tadeusz Bradecki directs a strong cast, a crew of talented actors who portray the memorable characters in New York City's 50's, most trying to make a fast buck in a floating craps game hosted by Shawn Wright as Nathan Detroit, Sarah's love interest. The costumes suit the likes of such gamblers as Benny Southstreet (Billy Lake), Rusty Charlie (Kelly Wong), Harry the Horse (Evan Alexander Smith), Angie the Ox (Will Lamond), Joey Biltmore (David Ball), and Big Jule (Aadin Church), who, when desperate, likes to employ his own special dice without spots, magically making whatever he calls.
Guy Bannerman plays Lieutenant Brannigan, a
West Side Story officer Krupke type who tries to apprehend the gamblers while Patty Jamieson as General Matilda B. Cartwright and Peter Millard as Arvide Abernathy portray Salvation Army officers trying to capture their souls. Millard does a fine job with More I Cannot Wish You in the second act.
Jenny L. Wright performs with the Hot Box Dolls (Ijeoma Emesowum as Vernon, Kiera Sangster as Allison, Melanie Phillipson as Mimi, and Jacqueline Thair as Ferguson), and revels in flaunting her New York nasal twang with "girl" becoming "goil" and "pearl" becoming "poil."
The skills of Paul Sportelli (Orchestral Adaptation, Musical Direction), Parker Esse (Choreography), Peter Hartwell (Set Design), Sue LePage (Costumes), Kevin Lamotte (Lighting), John Lott (Sound) help produce a neon-lit rhythm, energy and grittiness depicting NYC nightlife that presents the viewer with outlandish wise guys, chorus girls, gamblers, cops and bobby-soxers.
The plot revolves around Nathan Detroit (Shawn Wright) who needs $1000 to maintain the city's oldest floating craps game, but his doll, Miss Adelaide (Jenny L. Wright) is putting the squeeze on him to go legit and tie the knot. Enter Sky Masterson (Kyle Blair), an old acquaintance and high-rolling gambler, who takes Nathan's wild bet - to woo the virtuous Sarah Brown (Elodie Gillett), a sergeant at the Save-A-Soul mission! Who will take a real gamble on love? Will luck be a lady tonight?
Based on the short stories of humorist Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway in 1950, ran for 1,200 performances and won five Tony Awards including Best Musical. It also received international attention thanks to the 1955 MGM motion picture adaptation featuring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. Opening May 11, Guys and Dolls runs to October 12 at the Festival Theatre. See:
www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-SHAW. You will love it!