Nicely, nicely

Guys and Dolls

By Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows & Jo Swerling
Directed and choreographed by Rajendra R.J. Maharaj
The Gallery Players
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

Damon Runyon has a lot to answer for. He went and glamorized the lowlifes, the hustlers and religion-mongers who peopled Times Square in the 1930s. You know, the ones who are still hanging around there, who refuse to be Disneyized. And Frank Loesser made it even worse, by giving them brilliant songs to sing. There's no getting around that Guys and Dolls is a terrific musical, funny and endearing, with music that lifts it higher than one would believe.

The Gallery Players' production of Guys and Dolls had a lot going for it, with some good performances and strong voices. It was much stronger musically than dramatically, as the scenes between numbers tended to be flat. All the lead performers were fine singers, and the songs came across in all their glory. But it is important for Sky (Thomas Conroy) and Sarah Brown (Carrie Rupnow) to have, yes, that chemistry. Conroy had the right look, glamorously sharp and slick, but he tended to disappear between songs. Rupnow was good with Sarah's stridency, but less so with her vulnerability. Yet when Sky's "My Time of Day" segued into their "I've Never Been in Love Before" duet, it was spine-tingling, and all was right with musical theater. If only they had trusted the dialogue as much as they trusted the music.

The recent Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls was something of a lopsided affair, with Adelaide outshining the rest of the cast. Jessica Kurland is a fine comic actor, with her Adelaide part Tracey Ullman and part Betty Boop. While her numbers with the Hot Box Girls were more successful in intention than execution, her timing and high spirits made her endearing. But the acting prize went to Brian E. Long as Nathan Detroit, who had just the right combination of cartoonishness and earnestness as the hapless gambler who doesn't gamble very well.

The supporting cast was a mixed bag -- Robert Skelly was a low-key Nicely-Nicely until he exploded into the rousing show stopper, "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat." Bill Corry as Harry the Horse and especially Robert Anthony Baldini as Big Jule were comically right in their parts, but Terry Cosentino as Benny Southstreet was overanimated.

Rajendra R.J. Maharaj directed the cast briskly, and his choreography, especially in "Luck Be a Lady," was surprising for its complexity, and was very well executed. Particularly notable among the dancers were Lysander O. Abadia and Amanda Thomas. The sets (Kumiko Uetake) and lighting (Douglas Filomena) were simple, with an exemplary Hot Box Club utilizing two levels, but the sewer was unimpressive. Costume designer Elizabeth Bourgeois was right on the money with her designs, especially for the Hot Box Girls. Eric Rausch manned the piano as the lone musical accompanist to the singers.

In many ways, this production of Guys and Dolls was like visiting someone you haven't seen in a while. Some of it wasn't always what you would wish, some was better than you remembered. But the audience really went out humming the tunes.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting : 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 David Mackler