note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
Ocean State Theatre’s current production of the Tony Award winning “Guys and Dolls” is sheer delight, robust, sassy, endless fun with winning performances and some stunning dancing and singing.
“Guys and Dolls” is the musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It is based on "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure" – two short stories by Damon Runyon – and also borrows characters and plot elements from other Runyon stories – most notably "Pick the Winner" The premiere on Broadway was in 1950. It ran for 1200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical has had several Broadway and London revivals, as well as a 1955 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. “Guys and Dolls “was selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. However, because of writer Abe Burrows' troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Trustees of Columbia University vetoed the selection, and no Pulitzer for Drama was awarded that year.
The story revolves around mainly two couples amidst an array of dancing girls and gamblers in NYC. Three small-time gamblers, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie argue over which horse will win in today’s race. (“Fugue for Tinhorns”) They are friends with Nathan Detroit who runs the oldest established floating crap game in New York and Nathan is in a tight spot with nowhere to run his game and lots of big gambles coming to town to play. Nathan must raise $1,000 to rent a garage to run his carp gap but is strapped for cash. One of the gamblers is Sky Masterson, a notorious gamble with a compulsion to bet on anything. Nathan proposes a bet which he believes he cannot lose: Sky must take a doll (a woman) of Nathan's choice to dinner in Havana, Cuba. Sky agrees, and Nathan chooses Sarah Brown of the Save A Soul Mission, not Masterson’s type at all.
Tom Andrew is Sky Masterson, a legendary gambler, someone willing to bet on just about anything and with a penchant for winning often against the odds. Andrew handles it all with aplomb and flair, making the portrayal fun and convincing throughout. He is excellent when he sings “My Time of Day’ and his duet with Sarah, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before’, the two of them vivacious and entrancing.
Rochelle Weinrauch is Sarah Brown, the woman from the mission with her own high ideals and agenda, faced with failure trying to recruit sinners to the mission. Weinrauch is poised and effective in the role, conveying a sense of properness and gentile manners coming to grips with deep emotions.
Kevin B. McGlynn is Nathan Detroit, the man behind the longest running floating crap game in NYC who always mages to put off marrying his girlfriend and fiancée of 12 years, Adelaide. He is an unrepentant gambler with a ingrained desire to keep his crap game going no matter what obstacles he faces, including Adelaide’s fierce disapproval. McGlynn shows real flair as Nathan, full of disarming charm and cunning about his gambling ways and how to maintain them in the face of relentless resistance.
Katie Clark is Adelaide, Nathan’s long suffering girlfriend and fiancé. A performer at the Hot Box Club, she is desperately in love with Nathan and even tells her mother lies about their relationship to prove signs of progress which don’t exist in real life. Clark is smart and sassy in the role, full of a combination of sincere and a bit niave as well as street wise except in her blind spot, Nathan. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable performance full of grit and vigor. She is pure delight when she sings “Adelaide’s Lament” She is just as enjoyable and winning when she sings “Take Back Your Mink” with the Hot Box girls.
The supporting cast adds so much to the production, all delivering solid and pleasing performances. Mathew Eamon Ryan is sheer fun as Nicely Nicely Johnson, one of Nathan’s cohorts. He shines with “Fugue for Tinhorns” sung with Jon Ramsey (Benny Southstreet) and Brandon Alberto (Rusty Charlie).
Brian Mulvey plays Rev. Abernathy, Sarah’s grandfather and he works at the mission as well. Mulvey is robust and sincere in the role, very convincing. He sines in singing “More I Cannot Wish You.”
Frank O’Donnell is Big Jule a notorious out of town gamble with a relentless desire to win and chase after loses, not matter what he has to do to recover, including intimidation if need be. Gruff, blunt intimidating and funny O’Donnell deliver a solid and enjoyable performance as the nefarious Big Jule.
David Groccia is the relentless detective Brannigan, determined to put an end to the floating crap game and arrest all the participants. Groccia is forceful and vigorous in the role.
Among the rest of the large cast there are many standouts. Jeanine Delacastro as the General for the mission, Jonathan Luke Stevens as Harry the Horse shines too.
Directed and choreographed by Russell Garrett, the production is robust, vivid and energetic. The large scale dance numbers like the opening number and the dance and song number in the sewer by the men’s dance ensemble, “Crapshooters Dance” is vibrant, alive and rambunctious, pure delight and often dazzling. The same with “Luck Be A Lady.” And the ensemble dance of “Havana” is spirited, vibrant and enjoyable.
Justin P. Cowan is the musical director and handles it all with great flair and panache. The mescal numbers show great energy and style. The orchestra is outstanding, made up of talented musicians. Songs ike the duet between Sarah and Adelaide, “Marry the Man Today” are spirited and expressive, fun and full of earnestness.
The scenic and lighting design by Bert Scott is often stunning, creating a vivid mood and atmosphere.
This is a pure fun show, full of dazzling dancing and exceptional singing, sure to please and be totally enjoyable, great summer fare. The choruses are fantastic with their dancing abilities and singing abilities, full of oomph and sheer fun. The large cast, including the gamblers and th Hot Box girls are talented and energetic, never failing to please or delight. The cast got a well deserved standing ovation.