Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan



Guys and Dolls - Donna Feore's So You Think You Can Dance!


Guys and Dolls


Musicals at the Stratford Festival are a prime source of their revenue, and this season, with Guys and Dolls at the Festival Theatre, Artistic Director Anthony Cimolino has added another winner to bolster his theatrical success.

Guys and Dolls, under director Donna Feore, celebrates risk and movement, the highlight of the production, the remarkable male dancers whose breakneck choreography continues right through the credits and well-earned standing ovation at the end.

This show is guaranteed to please, the costumes quite beautiful, the cast talented with Feore's brilliant staging. Ample room for dance with the orchestra set high above the stage. Her direction and choreography of previous musicals such as A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music, Crazy for You and Fiddler on the Roof have all earned rave reviews.

Based on the prohibition-era stories by New York newspaperman Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls is propelled by catchy numbers such as "Luck Be a Lady," "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." Its gambling characters are all engaging with riotous comic dialogue throughout between an earnest Miss Adelaide (Blythe Wilson) and the unreliable Nathan Detroit (Sean Arbuckle) one of the two romantic couples, she a burlesque performer and his fiancé of 14 long years. Dialect coach, Nancy Benjamin, does a great job of infusing them with Brooklyn accents in both speech and song.

This production must occupy Stratford's biggest budget with 165 unique costumes and lavish sets that feature dancing such as the Havana number which blew me away and the crapshooters' ballet featuring 19 men, while the "Hot Box Girls" front throughout for the provocative Miss Adelaide.

Evan Buliung is a convincing high-rolling Sky Masterson. Alexis Gordon is equally talented as Sarah Brown who runs the Save-a-Soul mission in the Broadway district. Buliung bets $1000 that he can take this Salvation Army stalwart to Havana, Cuba on a dinner date.

Lisa Horner as General Matilda B. Cartwright, Laurie Murdoch as Arvide Abernathy and Steve Ross as Nicely-Nicely Johnson round out the cast, but it's the dancing that will enthrall.

Feore's Guys and Dolls is dynamite. It runs at the Festival until October 29.


From Program Notes

Director and Choreographer Notes by Donna Feore


It was a wonderful day for me when Antoni Cimolino asked me to direct and choreograph Guys and Dolls. I love this show. The year that I have spent on it has brought me a great deal of happiness.

There are many reasons for that. Let's start with the company, an exceptionally gifted group of artists devoted to their craft and willing to try anything, at least once. We have a stage of legend that offers intimacy and grandeur all at once and an inspired group of designers with boundless imagination and skill. We have an orchestra, large and powerful yet unseen, comprising some of the finest musicians in the country, who are more than ready to embrace the challenge of the score. I'm thrilled that we were able to secure, for the first time since they were created, the orchestrations Michael Starobin made for the 1992 Broadway production that acknowledge the evolution of the musical since the opening of Guys and Dolls in 1950, and dance arrangements by Mark Hummel that celebrate the capabilities of contemporary dancers.

And not least, an extraordinary book to top it off! Guys and Dolls is without question one of the finest pieces of musical theatre ever created. Branded a classic almost the instant it premiered, Guys and Dolls defies expectations. The very fact that crapshooters have a ballet lets us know that traditional ideas will be turned on their heads. The "dolls" of the title are independent, employed and empowered. They're willing to negotiate with the "guys" but they'll set the terms. Guys and Dolls offers us a remarkably balanced view of the romantic transactions of this fabled Broadway bunch and it does it with great joy and precision. The economy of the show is startling. There is nothing extra or out of place. Every word, every note, every step earns its keep.

When Starobin (a prodigious talent who began his orchestrating career at twenty-seven years of age with Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Pork with George) was asked to create new orchestrations for the '92 production of Guys and Dolls, he insisted that his job was to expand and enrich the story in an emotional way. Sensitive to how our modern ears are accustomed to hearing recorded music, Starobin wanted to showcase the "live-ness" of the theatrical musical experience, especially evident with a big band. The night-to-night, moment-to-moment, never-to-be-repeated reality of the interaction of band, actors, singers and dancers creates an exhilarating and, we hope, uniquely thrilling experience. I truly hope you enjoy the show as much as we enjoy sharing it with you.

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