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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 27, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 21
Guys and Dolls keeps its winning ways
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Guys and Dolls keeps its winning ways

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Guys and Dolls
5th Avenue
Through June 5


The Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls is one of the best of its generation, with songs that have become part of America's music lexicon: 'Luck, be a lady tonight!' you might sing, or maybe 'I love you, a bushel and a peck' to your child during a bath.

The opulent production at the 5th Avenue Theatre has a cast of some of the best musical theater performers around the area. It's full of local talent, with only Daniel C. Levine (Nathan Detroit) and Todd Buonopane (Nicely Nicely) as visiting talent in the leads.

The story is mostly about finding enduring love, while perpetuating myths of love changing your priorities and even your character. Die-hard gambler and crap-game location scout Nathan Detroit won't stop running games, not even for his fiancée of 14 years, Adelaide (Billie Wildrick). Inveterate gambler Sky Masterson (Brandon O'Neill) has to figure out how to take Salvation Army 'doll' Sarah Brown (Katherine Strohmaier) to Havana for dinner on a bet. Then, of course, they fall in love.

More than a dozen gamblers try to avoid getting arrested by Lt. Brannigan (Jim Gall), while being begged by Salvation Army missionaries Arvide Abernathy (Clayton Corzatte) and General Cartwright (Laura Kenny) to save their souls. There are musical interludes from Miss Adelaide's Hotbox girls which add humor and demonstrate Adelaide's job, as well as give context to how Nathan meets her.

Favorite Wildrick takes the stage with assurance as Miss Adelaide, with spot-on comic timing and a deft humanization of her character's 'dumb blonde' aspects - she isn't smart, but she's sure not stupid, either. Strohmaier brings her clean soprano to the fore in a strong performance, particularly with 'If I Were a Bell' (her costuming is unfortunately dowdy overall, however). O'Neill reminds us a little of Desi Arnaz, with his Latin rhythms and good looks.

Director Peter Rothstein overdoes the humor, especially at the beginning, by forcing the performers to wink at the audience, directly contradicting the inherent sweet offhandedness of it. But the solid musical overcomes that and, thanks to seamless choreography by Noah Racey and a bouncy orchestra directed by Joel Fram, its charms take over.

Buonopane delivers a great 'Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat,' and with Greg McCormick Allen and Allen Galli, delivers the 'Fugue for Tinhorns' and 'Guys and Dolls' with great harmony. Scene-stealers Kenny and Corzatte are perfectly cast for their roles. Bradford Farwell rasps amusingly as Harry the Horse. Gall is a commanding police presence, playing it straight instead of making Brannigan a buffoon.

The set is overpowered by huge lettering spelling out the musical name (designed by Kate Sutton-Johnson), but some fun stage-business helps sell its inclusion. Still, there's plenty of room for all the guys and dolls in the ensemble to kick up their heels and show what they can do. Aside from 'Havana,' other well-done dances include 'A Bushel and a Peck,' 'The Crapshooters' Dance,' and 'Luck, Be a Lady.'

During curtain call, you get to sing along as they reprise the title song. Aside from the subject matter being gangsters, it's fun for the whole family.

For more information, go to www.5thavenue.org or call 206-625-1900. Discuss your opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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