Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Guys & Dolls"

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entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"Guys & Dolls"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Assumption College's spring production of "Guys & Dolls" is set in the colorful world of New York City in the 1950's. It is an entertaining tale of love, marriage,gambling and temperance on Damon Runyon's Broadway. While Nathan Detroit, operator of a legendary floating crap game evades marriage to Adelaide, his chorus girl fiancee of 14 years, high rolling Sky Masterson revels in his reputation as a notorious gambler and womanizer. But when Nathan bets Sky that even he can't sweep Sarah Brown, the prim mission lass off to Havana, everyone gets more than they bargained for. Theatre professor Brian Tivnan directs his 30 member cast with an expert hand getting the best out of his talented performers to create an evening of enjoyable musical comedy entertainment.

Brian infuses his enormous cast with the frenetic energy and pacing needed to carry off this show. He uses a unit set on the gym floor to create the different locations in NYC and in Cuba, which keeps the action flowing without having to wait for long scene changes.(Art professor, Elizabeth Meyersohn and her talented students painted the set.) Brian's blocking of all his characters is excellent especially when the entire cast is on stage, making the scene into picture postcard moment. He utilizes the large playing area very well, moving the cast over every inch of it. Brian is aided by Professor Jane Shivick, the musical director who conducts the wonderful 8 piece orchestra and taught this difficult score to the performers. (Keyboard player Kevin Cotellese really shines in his playing expertise.) The standout choral numbers include "The Oldest Established", (where the gamblers sound like a church choir while singing about their crap game) "Sit Down", (where they get converted by dreaming about being washed overboard on a boat) and the finale where the harmony soars in the title number by the whole cast. Jane also does excellent work on the solos, duets and trios, showing the students voices to their full advantage. Another important aspect of this show is the choreography and these performers excell here, too. Jennifer Agbay works wonders in the Havana tangos, the gamblers dance and the two hatbox numbers with both the female and male dancers. The girl dancers are clad in risque gingham skirts for their first song and in long red gowns, pearls and furs for their strip song in the second act. The boys dance as well as the girls displaying their talents, too and the fine direction of their choreographer. The gorgeous and colorful costumes also add to overall effect of the show. Sound is by Jeremy Carr who keeps the bodymikes in check and the lighting is designed by Brent Duca and run by Tom Wilkins who keeps the actors in the right kind of mood lighting.

The conniving gambler, Nathan Detroit is played by Mike Wood. (who is a sophmore and a quadruplet, making you wonder if his other siblings are actors, too.) He does a great job with his comic lines and plays the head hoodlum with ease. Mike uses his strong voice in "Oldest Established" and "Sue Me" with Adelaide. She is played by Talene Tarvezian, a junior who does splendid work as the dumb bimbo who stays engaged to Nathan for 14 years. She sings the Lament song perfectly with the proper sneezing, wheezing and coughing in it. In the first two numbers Talene uses a great belting sound and the latter two she uses a Betty Boop type sound while she and the girls dance up a storm in the barnyard song, "Bushel and A Peck" and in the striptease song, "Take Back Your Mink" . (Both songs are a hoot but the dancing is precise in them.) Nathan's gambling buddy, Sky Masterson is played JD Killoran, a recent Assumption grad. He tackles his role with a good stage prescence and makes the transition work when Sky changes from sinner to married man. JD uses his baritone voice wonderfully in his conversion of the hoodlums song, Luck Be A Lady" and in his duets, "I'll Know and my favorite song in this show, "I've Never Been in Love Before" with Sarah played by freshman, Melissa Studdard. (She also is hilarious in the drunken Cuban scene where she gets into a fight and handles her drunken song, "If I Were a Bell" perfectly, too) This girl has a magnificent soprano voice which soars off the scale in her songs and it is one of the best voices I've ever heard. Melissa handles this straight laced role with a lot of spunk and charm and her duet with Talene called "Marry The Man" about changing their men after marriage lets both girls shine in their humorous duet. These four actors do marvelous work in these demanding roles with each other and the entire cast.

The three head gamblers, Nicely-Nicely, Benny Southstreet and Harry the Horse are played by Adam Hardenbrook, Steve Piscitello and Victor Martins.(All of them are seniors.) Adam is clad in a bright red suit which fits the character's brassy energy. Nicely is constanly eating and running in and out of all the scenes. Adam handles this comic gem of a role wonderfully and he sells the rollicking "Sit Down" to a very appreciative audience. Steve is Adam's equal in his chacterization and they have great chemistry as Nathan's two sidekicks. They also do a great job on the title number singing about how Dolls get Guys to do their bidding and have them wrapped aroung their little finger. The Brooklyn hood, Harry who is the sidekick of Chicago gambler, Big Jule, is perfectly played by Victor Martins. He wears a blue serge suit and sets a high standard in this show by remaining in character in all his scenes whether he is delivering lines or just listening to the other actor's dialogue. A sign of a well polished actor who makes his debut in G&D!

The two adult actors in this show add their talents to this production as authority figures. Freddie Hall plays Sarah's grandfather, Arvide and Melanie Demarais plays General Cartwright, the leader of Save-Soul Missions. Freddie is a professional vocalist who has performed in Las Vegas, Newport, RI, Milford, MA and Paris, France. He shows off his vocal prowess in "More I Cannot Wish You" the lovliest song in the show, bringing it and the show the poignancy needed to balance the comic moments. Freddie shows Arvide's strong side when he tells Sky if he doesn't deliver on his marker, he will tell the whole town Sky is a big welcher. Melanie who has worked at AC for the past 18 years in the Dean of Students Office, Alumni Relations and Major Gifts, plays her role with a firm hand. She commands the stage, showing she is a person to be reckoned with and no one will defy her leadership position. However she is taken in by Sky and the gambler's conversion, showing the softer side of the General. Michael Pollier, a sophmore plays Rusty Charlie and he shows off his strong voice in the opening song while graduate student, Brian Trojan does a great job as the murderous thug, Big Jule. Two juniors who give funny performances are Leanne Walsh who plays Agatha, one of the mission people when she urges the gamblers to confess their trangressions as well as by Mike Perfetuo who plays Angie the Ox and the MC and he shows great dancing skills throughout the show. Two other funny characters are handled by seniors Patrick O'Keefe as the bumbling Lt. Branigan and by tall redhead, David Bergeron as Joey Biltmore who shoots someone while calmy talking on the phone to Nathan. The rest of the cast do splendid work in this full scale musical which is a first for Assumption College but hopefully not the last. (The current theatre department grew out of the English department in the early 1970's and was initiated by Don Letendre, my former English Professor who retired in 1984 and taught me Playwriting and Intro to Theatre in 1974 & 75. Maurice Plasse took the program over, running it until his death in 2001. It grew under his leadership and this show is dedicated to his memory with a $1000 scholarship fund being established. It is gratifying to return to my alma mater and see all the talented students making the theatre program into a very successful and thriving one.)

So for a marvelous rendition of an old time classic musical, be sure to catch "Guys & Dolls" at Assumption College. You will not be disappointed.

"Guys & Dolls" ( 24 - 26 April)
Laska Gym, Assumption College, 500 Salisbury Street, WORCESTER, MA
1 (508) 767-7410

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide