Guys and Dolls Amaze All
I’m going to be honest and say that Guys and Dolls (directed by Alan Haehnel) was one of the best musical productions that I’ve seen. While I haven’t seen as many as some, I’ve seen enough to warrant the claim. The performance went above and beyond in every single department. The singing was beautiful, full sounding, and heartfelt. The dancing was beautifully executed and effortless-looking. The acting, which is often the place where musicals fall short, was genuine and humorous. I was astounded from the very first dress rehearsal by the minimal set with colorful costumes, props, and lighting.
The musical Guys and Dolls was based on stories written by Damon Runyon in the 1920’s and 30’s about gangsters and gamblers living in New York City. The first performance of the show was on Broadway in 1951. Even though this is a story of people two generations behind those performing it today, its laments, humor, and charm still ring true.
We start with the story of “good old reliable” Nathan Detroit (Ross Patten), who runs an illegal floating crap game (a form of gambling with dice). He finds a different spot every night, and in return, he takes a cut off the top of everyone’s profits. This is all unknown to his fiance of 14 years, Adelaide (Lulu Fairclough-Stewart), the main star at a local dance club. Adelaide is getting restless after being engaged for so long, and Nathan keeps stalling the wedding after being advised that dolls “must always take second place to aces back to back”. Throughout the show, Adelaide and Nathan’s relationship is a sea of turmoil. They love each other, that is clear, but they are swimming in an ocean of misunderstanding and lost communication. Lulu’s commanding stage presence and distinctive voice was key to her beautiful portrayal of the role. She was funny at the right moments, and agonizingly moving when she needed to be. Ross’ sharp deliveries of Nathan’s one liners and deep down honest quality gave their scenes and songs together a stunning duality.
At the same time, notoriously high stakes better Skye Masterson (Henry Lang) and the neighborhood missionary, Sergeant Sarah Brown (Kate Budney) are falling down into an unexpected topsy-turvy romance. Sarah says she will never love a gambler, and Skye’s only speaking to her because of a bet that he couldn’t take her to Havana. Nevertheless, they strike up a deal saying that Sarah will come to Havana if Skye brings her a dozen (or more) genuine sinners to the mission. The nature of their relationship slowly forms into something neither expected. Sarah learns that bad deeds do not make bad people, and Skye manages to discover that women are more than luggage. Kate and Henry’s beautiful voices made their duets delightful and engaging to listen to, bringing their characters to life.
And yet, if would not be a review of Guys and Dolls without mentioning the guys and the dolls. I particularly enjoyed the guys’ set changes in which they stayed in character and grumbled and conversed about their own personal problems. Their dance numbers were synchronized and their singing rounded and clear. The performance of the s ong “Guys and Dolls” by Nicely Nicely Johnson (Owen O’Leary) and Benny Southwest (Tyler Nabinger) was notably one of my favorites. I must also give Owen credit for his glorious performance in “Sit
Guys and Dolls Amaze AllDown, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”. Trapezing around the stage and tumbling off blocks might just be his calling. Still, I can’t forget Jakob Bobrowicz’s historic portrayal of Italian mobster, Big Jules. The dolls also triumphed in everything they did. No matter whether it was forcing their men to carry things around, skipping around the stage doing complicated dance numbers, or clashing their cymbals at the right times during “Follow the Fold”, their performances brought a smile to my face every time.
Overall, I cannot praise this show enough. It completes the task of turning the plain black blocks that make up the set into a magical musical experience. It is very clear that everyone involved invested so much effort into the production. From Alan Haehnel, the marvelous director, to Mrs. Chambers who kept every note in tune. From Denise Frawley, who made 50 teenagers dancing on a stage look elegant, to Amy Good, whose work in every Footlighters production is indispensable. I’d also like to acknowledge both Izzie stage managers, as well as the rest of the the lighting and sound crew. There were almost zero disasters, and it was all thanks to the amazing team.
I want to thank this phenomenal production of Guys and Dolls for forever changing my opinion on musicals for the better.
All pictures courtesy of Kyle Koehler