Monday, July 10, 2017

Old Globe’s “Guys and Dolls” razzle-dazzles

Not discounting Frank Losser’s memorable musical score and clever lyrics, and Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows book (based a story of Damon Runyon characters “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown”), “Guys and Dolls” currently up on the stage at the Old Globe Theatre (Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage), in association with Asolo Repertory Theatre through Aug. 13th, director Josh Rhoades’ (direction and choreography) and his updated incarnation of the 1950 original production, has the theatre rumbling with razzle-dazzle.  

Cast of "Guys and Dolls"
The dancing is top notch, the women’s voices are beyond expectations especially Audrey Cardwell’s Sarah Brown, as the prim, proper and naïve wanna be savior of the “Save A Soul Mission” (I’ll Know”) and Veronica J. Kuehn as Miss Adelaide (“Bushel and a Peck”, “Take Back Your Mink” and “Adelaide’s Lament”), lead singer with the other ‘dolls’ at the Hotbox Club’. She's been engaged to Nathan Detroit for fourteen years.   

The show starts off nicely (nicely if you will) with the catchy “Fugue for Tinhorns” or better yet: “I got the horse right here, the name is Paul Revere…” and were off to the races! Nicely, Nicely Johnson (Todd Buonopane), Benny Southstreet (Matt Bauman) and Rusty Charley (Richard Gatta) are arguing over which horse will win at the races the following day.

Matt Bauman, Todd Bounopane and Richard Gatta
In the meantime ‘Apple Annie’ another Runyon character from “Pocket Full of Miracles” shows up and a small riff on her basket of apples takes place.

The show is just loaded knee -deep in characters including another of our locals Linda Libby (fabulous) as Gen. Matilda B. Cartwright, big wig in the Save Our Soul Missionary and Ralph Johnson as Arvide Abernathy, Sarah’s uncle and man of wisdom (“More I Cannot Wish You”). Once again, if there was a role perfect for Johnson, this is it.

All the characters crisscross with each other and before we know it, Nicely and Benny meet up with Harry the Horse (Lance Carter) who wants to know where the floating crap game is. (“The Oldest Established”)

Terrence Archie as Sky with cast
The next day Harry brings high roller Big Julie in from Chicago to play craps if they can find a place. All the while Adelaide is sniffling and sneezing looking for Nathan while he’s out challenging Sky to a $1000.00 bet. They need it as a security deposit on a place to have the crap game.

Juxtaposed, Lt. Brannigan (our own Ed Hollingsworth), the local cop on the beat can’t wait to nail one of these petty hoodlums for playing craps. He has everyone scattering in different directions.

Other characters included in this oft called ‘Musical Fable of Broadway’, are of course Nat’n Detroit, Liverlips (Cody Davis) Jimmy The Greek (Juan Caballer), Big Julie (Steve Greenstein) and   Sky Masterson. They are some of the ‘Guys’.

Nathan Detroit (J. Bernard Calloway) and Sky Masterson (Terrence Archie) are the ‘guys’ at the center of gravity in this gangsta, small time gambler gig. The ‘dolls’ and others orbit around them. It all happens on and around the streets of Broadway in the 40’s.

As mentioned earlier the two most important ‘dolls’ are Adelaide and Sarah Brown or Sergeant Brown. She and her group canvass the streets looking for souls in need of saving. They march and pound to the drumbeat of ‘Follow the fold and stray no more” in their Red Salvation Army looking outfits (Brian C. Hemesath). 

Veronica J. Kuehen 
She will end up with the coveted prize, Sky Masterson (“My Time of Day”) but doesn’t know it until after her fortuitous trip to Havana for a dinner date with Sky that was set in stone on a bet that Sky could get a date with any woman he wanted.  

Audrey  Cardwell as Sarah Brown
She and Sky and Nathan and Adelaide (with wheezes and the sneezes’) are the big love interests in the story. She is just what the doctor ordered for the role of Adelaide, on target with all the right nuances as the some -day bride to be.

I hesitate to add though that while the love interest is an ongoing thread that runs through the story line; she wants him to give up gambling and he’s addicted to gambling, the chemistry between Calloway’s Detroit and Kuehn’s Adelaide seemed to bypass them both. And while Calloway might be just right as The Grinch, he didn’t do a thing for yours truly as Nathan Detroit.   

 The original production premiered on Broadway in 1950 and was directed by George S, Kaufman and starred the inimitable Vivian Blaine as Adelaide, the gal who suffered with a fourteen year cold (“Adelaide’s Lament”) while waiting for her man, Nathan Detroit to show up at the church to get married and give up gambling.

The show ran for 1200 performances and won the Tony for Best Musical. John Chapman of the Daily News said then of the show, “The big trouble with “Guys and Dolls” is that a performance of it lasts only one evening, when it ought to last about a week”.

The Old Globe has in the past mounted big musical productions. “Damn Yankees”, “Kiss Me Kate”, “Candida”, “I Do, I Do”, “Into The Woods”, “The Full Monty” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, “The Times They are A- Changin’”, “Scottsboro Boys” and I could go on. Just recently it sent “Allegiance”, “Bright Star” and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” to Broadway. Surprisingly, “Guys and Dolls” didn’t make the list until now.

In Havana with the cast of "Guys and Dolls"
Fear not though. The wait, especially the soul rousing "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat" was worth- while. The overall look of the show glitters with Lee Savage’s Broadway lights blinking and advertising all sorts of commercials. Brian C. Hemesath’s costumes are period fitting (at least for the gangsta types) with colorful rags for the gals. Paul Miller’s lighting, and Kevin Kennedy’s sound along with Sinai Tabak musical direction, additional arrangements, conductor and pianist bring it all together.

It’s still my all-time favorite musical. See it!

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Aug. 13th
Organization: The Old Globe
Phone: 619.234.5623
Production Type: Musical Comedy
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, 92103
Ticket Prices: Start at $40.00
Venue: Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage

Photo: Jim Cox


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