The American musical theater classic Guys And Dolls gets a mostly quite good in-the-round revival at Glendale Centre Theatre highlighted by a pair of scene-stealing Dolls—Heather Lundstedt as Sarah Brown and Ann Myers as the one-and-only Miss Adelaide.
Based on a story and characters created by Runyon and adapted for the musical stage by songwriter Loesser and book writers Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, Guys And Dolls brings to musical life Runyon’s Fellas And Gals of post WWII Times Square, and a more picturesque cast of characters you won’t find this side of Dogpatch.
There’s high-rolling gambler Sky Masterson (Robert Standley), who wagers he can convince virginal Save-A-Soul Mission “Doll” Sarah Brown to join him on an overnighter to Havana.
There’s feckless but lovable gambler Nathan Detroit (Jason J. Lewis), ever on the lookout for a new venue for the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York,” even as his fourteen-year-long engagement to Miss Adelaide, headline dancer at the Hot Box Nightclub, has been going on for so long that it has caused poor Adelaide a psychosomatic cold, quite possibly one of the longest on record.
Among the small-time gamblers who populate “Runyonland” are Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Andrew Metzger), Benny Southstreet (Jonathan Brett), and Rusty Charlie (Jordan Byers) whose now classic “Fugue For Tinhorns” expresses their devotion to sniffing out today’s winning horse in three-part counterpoint.
Along for comic menace is great-big Chicago kingpin Big Jule (Tom Allen), whose desire to win at craps is every bit as massive as his nickname … and likely to happen thanks to a pair of dice that “ain’t got no spots.” (He remembers where the dots were.)
Will Sky be able to persuade Sarah to fly with him to Cuba? Will Nathan take advantage of the couple’s absence to hold tonight’s crap game inside the Save-A-Soul mission? Will Miss Adelaide convince Nathan to marry her and in so doing, finally get over her cold? Will Sarah find out Sky’s real name?
There’s hardly a musical theater aficionado who doesn’t know the answers to these questions, and even those who’ve never seen Guys And Dolls can probably win their own bet by correctly guessing the answers.
The pleasures in Guys And Dolls are not plot-related, but in the memorable characters that Runyon created and that performers have relished bringing to life for the past sixty-five years, as well as in the show’s many song standards and production numbers, which won Michael Kidd a 1950 Best Choreography Tony.
Though directors Tim Dietlein and Daniel Roebuck break no new ground in this latest Guys And Dolls revival, they make imaginative use of Glendale Centre Theatre’s arena stage as does choreographer Orlando Alexander, insuring that no one is shortchanged no matter on which of GCT’s four sides they sit.
On a less positive note, the excision of Guys And Dolls’ iconic show-opening “Runyonland,” whose choreographed procession of Times Square denizens (including randy on-leave sailors, shameless pick-pockets, supercool zoot-suiters, high-and-low society dames, and other assorted guys and dolls) is pretty darned inexcusable. (Having the acts opened and closed by a Hot Box emcee is another misstep, though no fault whatsoever of looker Jon Walburg.)
Fortunately, Guys And Dolls has been cast with some terrific SoCal performers, who provide numerous comedic and musical treats along the way to the show’s guaranteed happy ending.
Southland musical theater favorite Standley makes for a handsome charmer of a Sky, while Lewis’s utterly appealing Nathan recalls the 1992 Broadway revival’s Nathan Lane, with a bit of Danny DeVito sass thrown in for good measure.
Metzger’s charismatic, golden-throated Nicely-Nicely is nicely-nicely supported by Brett’s delightfully dimwitted Benny and Byers’ engaging Rusty, while the mountainous Allen and has great fun providing comic menace as the aptly named Big Jule.
Featured performers Stephen O’Hara (Arvide), Shelley Carling (General Cartwright), Kyle Kelley (Lt. Brannigan), and Pablo Rossil (Harry The Horse) do tiptop work as well, O’Hara showing off a beautiful tenor in “More I Cannot Wish You.
Still, if there’s any reason to put GCT’s Guys And Dolls on your theatergoing calendar, it is the dueling star turns given by the incandescent Lundstedt and the luminous Myers, who make the eleventh hour Sarah/Adelaide duet of “Marry The Man Today” the evening’s biggest vocal showstopper. Lundstedt’s gradual transformation from prim-and-proper to nice-and-naughty is a joy to behold, and oh those Lundstedt pipes. As for the divine Myers, it’s hard to believe that her unrestrained joie-de-ditzy performance is her first as the ever affianced chorine, so clearly is this a role she was born to play.
Alexander’s lively choreography, featured in “Havana,” “Luck Be A Lady,” and “Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat,” shows off the song-and-dance talents of both principal players and ensemble members Amanda Bailey, Maryanne Burr, Seth Freed, Marissa Koeler, Bridget Pugliese, Paul Reid, Youca Shimura, Sarah Skinner, Carter Thomas, Walburg, and fill-ins Greg Hardash and Kevin Holmquist, with Bailey, Koeler, Pugliese, and Shimura earning bonus points for their Hot Box Girls backup to Myers’ Miss Adelaide in “A Bushel And A Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink,” the latter highlighted by a G-rated strip tease that’s become a musical theater classic.
Dietlein and Roebuck get high marks for finding one clever way after another to execute Guys And Dolls multiple scene changes (having janitors sweep away the Hot Box footlights is particularly inspired), though the show’s scenic design itself isn’t quite up to GCT’s high standards, the usually imaginatively decorated walls remaining conspicuously bare and an upstairs curtain serving no apparent purpose.
Alex Mackyol‘s sound design provides a mostly well-calibrated mix of amplified vocals and prerecorded tracks, but the tracks themselves have a tinny, recorded-in-the-‘50s sound, and volume levels should be adjusted so that Nicely-Nicely does not overpower his song partners in “Fugue For Tinhorns.”
As always, Angela Manke costumes her cast in one terrific outfit after another, with special snaps due the guys’ saturated Technicolor suits and the delightful Hot Box Girls gowns, furs, and farmwear, and all of the above is professionally lit.
Carl Garcia is stage manager.
At its best, Glendale Centre Theatre’s in-the-round revivals have succeeded in giving our big-stage regional theaters a run for their money. Though not at the level of GCT’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, Man Of La Mancha, and The Music Man, Guys And Dolls does much to keep its audience entertained.
Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale.
September 3, 2015