One wonders upon hearing
that The Colony Theatre is offering "Guys and Dolls" how they would manage
to get all those characters and big dance numbers on the stage.
In fact, having seen the big, traditional, splashy treatment at El Camino College just a week before, this production has more emotional impact than thought possible from a lightweight show.
This version is convincing because the music is secondary. Nielsen and company realized that the Abe Burrows/Joe Swerling book is actually very strong, with a lot to say about love between opposites; it can stand on its own.
Frank Loesserís great lyrics, and tuneful music all have been wondrously blended to form a disarmingly unforgettable comedy with music and dance. The Colony uses the music to carry the story more naturally, rather than using the story to string the songs along/
The Colony production has succeeded in making Damyon Runyanís declasse characters glitter with conviction. It has toned down the brassy treatments of the musical numbers but retained plenty of the traditional sentiment and romantic schmaltz inherent in the script.
This time, the characters are not caricatures, and this beautifully. The comical story of low-lifes and not-so-low-lifes who inhabit New Yorkís Broadway and Times Square district of the 40s is set in a street seemingly adjacent to the gaudy "crossroads of the world," rather than right amid its glitter.
Runyan, the newspaper columnist, wrote short stories about the personalities and their oft-illegal activities of gambling and horse betting on the street. Burrows and Swerling took the essence of the stories and their characters by shaping a romantic tale around two unlikely couples: pretty Salvation Army soul-saver, Sarah Brown and big-time gambler, Sky (thatís how he bets) Masterson, lovable crap-gamester, Nathan Detroit and his adorable naive fiancee of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, star of a little strip joint revue.
Nathan needs money to marry Adelaide and tries to find a spot to gamble where police Lt. Brannigan canít find him.
He bets Sky he canít make a date with Sarah, the prim "missionary doll," who runs the new local soul-saving mission hall. Sky canít resist the challenge and sweet-talks the salvation soldier off the his favorite restaurant for dinner ó in Havana, Cuba.
The subsequent overnight trip results in gossamer wings for the two. Sarah learns how to tote some bicardi-soaked milk shakes, let down her hair, have a good brawl with the competing senoritas and fall in love with Sky ("If I Were A Bell I Would Ring").
Meanwhile, Nathan entertains Chicago crap shooter, Big Julie, in the mission. Returning to Manhattan, the couple discovers Nathan and cronies fleeing from police at the mission. Sarah feels deceived by Sky and vows she wonít love a gambler, no matter how handsome and romantic he seems ("Iíll Know When My Love Comes Along").
Sky determines to prove his sincerity and honor his "marker for one dozen genuine sinners" to save the failing mission from closure by the Salvation Army brass. He rolls big wagers ("Luck Be a Lady, Tonight") and brings Nathan and his co-sinners in for the prayer meeting.
Miss Adelaide confesses that she told her mother years ago that she and Nathan are married, have five children and Nathan works respectfully. She has sniffle spells whenever love and marriage are discussed with Nathan and resolves to get rid of that allergy once and for all following advise from a health book ("A Woman Could Develop the Grip").
Adelaideís Hot Box Revue numbers are a knock-out, with just four back-up dancers. "A Bushel and A Peck" is hilarious and "Take Back Your Mink" rings with affectionate camp.
Every cast member has a chance to stand out in this scaled-down treatment as actor-singer-dancer. Kirk Mouserís Rusty Charley, Victor Ernstís Society Man and revue emcee, Sandra Kinderís General Cartwright, Roger Kellerís Angie the Ox and Sam Ingraffiaís Lt. Brannigan are superb supports.
Vince Acostaís wonderful Nicely-Nicely Johnson is a unique tongue-in-cheek slant to the immortal "Sit Down Youíre Rockiní The Boat."
Nick DeGruccio is an utterly delightful little shrimp Benny Southstreet, and contributes his dance talents as characters in the riotous Havana and in the precision-demanding crap shooterís ballet numbers.
Robert Stoeckle is every inch a smooth Sky: tall, slender and blond with a beautiful singing voice to match. Linda Stoneís pert brunette Sarah delivers sweet vocals and excellent dramatic abilities. Their duets in "Iíve Never Been In Love Before" and "I Know" are a joy to watch and hear.
Hugh Maguireís Nathan is different to the traditional well-dressed dude, and he makes his endearing lines zing into new life; witness "Sue Me."
Eileen TíKayeís Miss Adelaide, especially in her "Lament," brought renewed appreciation to her lyrics, aided by fine musical arrangements.
Music director Marjorie Poeís adaptation of the Loesser score is magnificently played on her one person synthesizer. Not one note of zip and vigor was lost, yet the music was never overpowering in the deceivingly live-sounding accompaniment.
Kenton D. Jonesí innovative sets took practical license. An audience ovation broke out at the overture as recognizable New York buildings and signs lit up one by one.
"Bravo!" to Nielsen for his
thoughtful direction of dialog, the slick staging of the numerous scenes
and the sleek choreography. You wonít gamble in this fabulous production
by a great cast.
Copyright 1989 Glendale