Hustlers, con men, pickpockets, and gamblers cascade onto the Carnegie Theater stage with the riotous, tongue-in-cheek production of Guys and Dolls. This play is running simultaneously with Kinky Boots and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. This is an excellent production of one of my favorite shows.
Based upon Damen Runyon short stories, Guys and Dolls delves into the colorful and sleazy world of mid-Twentieth Century Broadway underground denizens. With music and extraordinarily clever lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, this play is a classic of the Golden Age of Broadway and won a Tony for Best Musical in 1950.
Cast and Plot of Guys and Dolls
The play is unique because of the rich, quirky Runyon-esque characters. Leading the group is Nathan Detroit (Christopher Wells) who is panicking because he cannot find a location for his infamous “Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York”. Many of the top rollers are in town including Sky Masterson (Jackson Reagin). Detroit is looking for a big payday. Desperate for seed money, Detroit bets Masterson that he cannot take pious and straitlaced Sgt. Sarah Brown (Gracie Parker) to Havana for dinner.
Detroit has additional problems, however, because his frustrated fiancée of 14 years (Miss Adelaide played delectably by Annalese Fusaro) is hounding him to get married. She also is the lead singer at the Hot Box night club performing the classic comedy songs “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink” with the chorus girls.
The story primarily evolves around the two sets of rollercoaster love relationships but it also is an ensemble piece led by Detroit’s lieutenants Nicely Nicely Johnson (Aaron Marshall), Benny Southstreet (Montez O. Jenkins Copeland who also plays Lola in Kinky Boots), and Rusty Charlie (Anderson Rothwell). They mix frenetic comedy with lively character songs including “Fugue for Tinhorns” and the title song “Guys and Dolls.” Other screwball characters include Harry the Horse (Tomi Newman who also plays Charlie in Kinky Boots), Chicago gambler Big Jule (Spencer Stanley), Angie the Ox (Andres Martinez) and Sarah’s grandfather Arvide Abernathy (Dain Paige who sings the poignant “More I Cannot Wish You”. Maddie Osment, Caroline Bowman, Ethan Kuchta, Eliza Levy, Julia Schick and Monique Churchill round out the cast.
Evil (from gambling, hustling, etc.) vs. Good (religious moralism) provide the conflict and culture clash in the show. Masterson as the suave but amoral gambler vs. the conservative Sarah Brown who is not fooled by Masterson but interested nonetheless. Sarah and Masterson’s evolving relationship is chronicled by the excellent duets by Parker and Reagin including “I’ll Know”, “If I Were a Bell” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Both sing very well.
Other Musical Highlights
To assure a successful production, three songs must be outstanding. The first is “Adelaide’s Lament” (one of the best comic songs in Broadway history), “Luck Be a Lady” and the mock gospel anthem “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat”. The ensemble aces all of them with kudos to Fusaro who steals the show.
Director/Choreographer Eric Byrd shepherds the extremely talented cast on a small stage featuring Latin dancing in the “Havana” number and a quixotic routine in the crapshoot scene. Because they are doing three shows simultaneously, the sets must be unique, functional, and adaptable. The basic set designed by Tyler Gabbard (who also produces the show) boasts a superstructure used as a platform and relies heavily on props.
Practically another character, the Lighting is designed by Alaina Pizzoferrato. Many different shapes frame each scene. Three different sized arcs of light effectively create the illusion of a tunnel in the crapshoot sewer scene. Costumes by Erin Donnelly include Missionary uniforms, 1940’s “gangster suits”, elegant gowns worn by the Chorus Girls and touristy outfits in Havana. Nicely Nicely’s checkered coat has a double meaning and is one of many sight gags throughout. The pre-recorded music led by Steve Goers complements the singers and includes most of the original orchestrations.
Again, this is an excellent production of one of my favorite shows. The singing, dancing, and acting are consistently good while maintaining the goofy, semi-satiric tone and energy of the show.
Get Your Tickets for Guys and Dolls
So, roll the dice and shuffle on down to the Carnegie Theater for the remainder of its run of Guys and Dolls. You can also still see Kinky BootsandLady Day. Next February, the Carnegie will feature Hello Dolly. Get tickets for this show at the box office or at https://thecarnegie.com/whats-on/guys-and-dolls/.
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