Thursday, July 18, 2019

NCR’S “Another Roll Of The Dice” Brings New Damon Runyon Characters To Life

“I Got The Horse Right Here…” Oops, wrong show but right era. Hang in there for another look at some of the colorful characters from the short Stories of Damon Runyon’s al la “Guys And Dolls” in the form of “Another Roll Of The Dice” now in a world premiere performance at North Coast Repertory Theatre’s final show of its 37th season, through Aug 11th.

In a time when the world is topsy-turvy Mark Saltzman’s book with music and lyrics from Frank Loesser’s playbook and with keen direction and choreography by Larry Sousa, this brand new “Another Roll Of The Dice” is a welcome relief from reality.
Jason Maddy, Allison Sprat Pearce, Darrick Penny, Lance Carter, Elliot Lazar and Sarah Errington
For those “Guys And Dolls” fans (put me at the top of the list) you might find these Runyonesque type gangsta characters from “ROD” familiar: there’s no Harry The Horse, but there is ‘Tobias The Terrible’ Tweeney, Speed Gilroy, Armond Fiebleman (Elliot Lazar) or Haystack Duggle, Joey Uptown, Sammy The shirt,  (Jason Maddy), Moose Moran, Monotone Milano, Jabez Thursday (Lance Carter), Snooksy Perkle, Georgia St. George, Fiona Fitch, Amelia Bodkin, Baseball Hattie (Allison Spratt Pearce), Zelma the Waitress, Deborah Weems, Valeria Acarwater, Mitzi Two Shoes (Sarah Errington) and Ledge Dugan, Leo The Soda Jerk, Lieutenant Delvaney and Phillies Fan (Derrick Penny).

Allison Spratt Pearce and Jason Maddy
The talented and excellent cast is pretty busy changing roles and shifting characters all in a flash of an eyelash and dressed to characterize each shady type by Elsa Benzoni. Not that you will be counting but just as an FYI the cast of six play thirty characters and each one is more…well lets just say out of Runyon’s playbook and that’s what makes them so appealing.

Elliot Lazar and Sarah Errington
Three vignettes are played out in Mindy’s Deli narrated by Zelma the waitress as the guys slink in and out with meetings arranged and deals made and broken with a look, a wave of the hand or the nozzle of some hardware. Each has a story and each story is loosely connected to another as the characters cross over and become part of another hijinks or robbery or whatever mess they create for themselves.

Some are more comical than others.  Eliot Lazar’s Tobias Tweeney is by far the most transitional as the nerdy Rutgers graduate in love with Zelma (“I Wish I Didn’t Love You So”) who is moving to the dark side and wants her future boyfriends to be more like the underworld creatures she sees coming into the Deli.
Allison Sprat Pearce and Elliot Lazar
For Tobias, his first lesson in love and life comes in the form of meeting up with Georgia in her dressing room where she gives him his first dancing lesson. Allison Spratt Pearce a stunning performer in her own right is the night -club singer who puts Tobias to the moves and, in a segment you won’t forget, he is without a doubt an excellent but deer in the headlights student.   She also teaches him the ways of smooching, dancing and whatever it takes to land him is doll. (“Why Fight The feeling?”)

As ‘luck has it he snags himself a job with the mob as their getaway driver and Zelma is smitten with the now Tobias The Terrible. Both Pearce and Errington show of their chops to the tunes of ‘The Boys In The Backroom” (Frederick Hollander), and ‘Why Fight The Feeling” (Loesser).
Allison Spratt Pearce as Baseball Hattie
Pearce is also outstanding as the Baseball cheering “Baseball Hattie” who gets jilted by her baseball hero Jason Maddy’s Haystack Duggler (“Let’s Get Lost”, Jimmy McHough) who has eyes for anyone in his sight.

Jason Maddy plays four or five different undergrounds with a wink and a nod and his larger than life persona pumps life into every one. But Haystack is the darkest as he abuses his wife and cheats right under her nose as she brings up a young son who solo, who later turns out to be a baseball star. Even Nathan Detroit wasn’t that kind of louse when he evaded Adelaide for all those years.
Elliot Lazar, Sarah Errington and Jason Maddy
Sarah Errington another comic talent in another character change she becomes the high falutin debutant Valeria on a mission to get rich quick by marrying Jabez Thursday (Lance Carter) a rich stock broker (Debutant Number One” by Victor Young) who as it turns out is an underground bookie.  Ya just can’t trust those stockbrokers!

The musicians, Jodi Hill, Jeff Dalrymple, Musical director Cris O’Bryon and Gerard Notan even managed some stage time, but for a brief moment. With songs from Loesser’s playbook including “Heart and Soul” (Hoagy Carmichael), “I Hear Music”, “Two Sleepy People” “Let’s Get Lost” “You’ve Got the Look”, “Debutant Number One” (Victor Young) I could have listened all night. Would that the musical score was as deep and rooted as the characters, all would be right with Loesser’s world as well as mine

Cast "Another Roll Of The Dice"
Credit to Marty Burnett’s minimalist set design, Aaron Rumley’s sound design/projections, Matt Novotny’s lighting and Phillip Korth’s props. 

For some fun on the darker side head up to Solana Beach where you will meet some street characters that might some day cross your path.

As Harry The Horse said: “I have nothing to hide. I collected the reward for my father”.

It’s all so wondergul.

Dates: Through Aug. 11th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 858-481-1055
Production Type: Musical Comedy
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Ticket Prices: Start at $49.00
Photo: Aaron Rumley


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