GUYS AND DOLLS
The colourful gamblers and dames of Damon Runyon’s New York—Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, Miss Adelaide and Sarah Brown, Nicely Nicely Johnson and Harry the Horse—have become as familiar to those of us who love live theatre as the Batmen, Bonds and their babes are to movie addicts. With Frank Loesser’s clever tunes and snappy lyrics and a wonderful book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys and Dolls is one of the most memorable Broadway musicals of all time.
Locally, the Playhouse mounted an excellent version not long ago, and the student production at Studio 58 was one of last year’s best. Sarah Rodgers’ Gateway Theatre team doesn’t always match the high standard set by those shows but they deliver enough exhilarating moments to send you home singing.
The one performance here that stands up to any comparison is Sara-Jeanne Hosie’s lovelorn Adelaide. On the 14th anniversary of her engagement to Nathan (Kevin K. James) she’s pretty much resigned to the status quo: “I like it when you don’t give me presents, Nathan. It makes me feel like we’re married.” But when she and the other scantily clad dolls in the Hot Box Review do their thing with “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink,” the stage heats up.
Hosie is a hoot explaining her psychosomatic reaction to Nathan in “Adelaide’s Lament,” and her duets with him (“Sue Me”) and with Sarah (“Marry the Man Today”) are highlights. She’s perfected the Noo Yawk attitude and accent (“take back ya mink, take back ya poils”) with which some of the other actors struggle mightily.
Sky (Peter Jorgenson) and Sarah (Tracy Neff) start a little slowly but hit their stride in Havana where Sky liberates the uptight Salvation Army sergeant with the help of Cuban rum and Shelley Stewart Hunt’s superb choreography. Neff combines her sweet soprano voice with strong physical comedy in a terrific version of the sometimes sucky “If I Were a Bell.”
Hunt does fantastic work with the guys in “The Crapshooter’s Dance” just before the rousing “Luck Be a Lady.” The male chorus, led by John Payne’s Nicely Nicely, Ashley O’Connell’s Benny Southstreet, and Alex McMorran’s Big Jule, also does a good job on the pseudo-gospel “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” Allen Stiles’ excellent ten-piece orchestra features A-list musicians Tom Shorthouse and Campbell Ryga.
Karen McCallum’s set has the right kind of comic-book look but the painted folding flats don’t always snap together during the quick scene changes. Jenifer Darbellay’s costumes look great on the dolls but some of the young guys seem more like kids dressed up as gangsters.