“Guys and Dolls”
Goodspeed Opera House
Goodspeed Opera House’s current “Guys and Dolls” is a major wow of a production that starts out great and, by the end of the second act, reaches somewhere in the stratosphere. The heroes behind this smashing show are many, most particularly the tip-top direction by Don Stephenson and the equally wonderful choreography by Alex Sanchez. As for the company of actors, everyone is perfectly cast and certainly delivers, with particularly standout work by one of my favorite actresses, Nancy Anderson, as Miss Adelaide. But it is unfair to pick favorites in this cast because everyone works on the same high level. Credit also Frank Loesser’s score and Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ book as classics that this current production does complete justice to throughout. I have to say that Goodspeed Opera House’s mega-watt “Guys and Dolls” represents the epitome of why I fell in love with musicals as a teenager and it proves to be a truly joyous and unforgettable evening of musical theatre.
Any production of “Guys and Dolls” will rise or fall on the casting of its four lead characters—Sarah Brown, Sky Masterson, Nathan Detroit, and Miss Adelaide. It is certainly happy news to be able to say that this quartet of actors comes up all aces. As Sarah Brown, Manna Nichols is suitably starchy in the opening scenes (as she must be) and it is truly a pleasure to watch her unbend by the end of Act I. She also possesses a superb soprano that is a delight to hear. As her would-be suitor, Sky Masterson, Tony Roach is almost movie-star handsome and his singing voice is a dream, especially in his duets with Manna Nichols. Indeed, these two actors are so good that they almost make you forget about Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando in the “Guys and Dolls” film version, which is saying a great deal.
As Nathan Detroit, Mark Price is suitably seedy and completely believable as a gambler, but he brings a softer side to the role—one truly feels that he loves Miss Adelaide and his duet with Nancy Anderson in “Sue Me” is a highlight. As for the aforementioned Nancy Anderson as Miss Adelaide, whom I saw do terrific work in such productions as “A Class Act,” “Wonderful Town,” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” she sparkles with star quality and her “Adelaide’s Lament” is all you could ask for. It must also be said that her duet with Manna Nichols, “Marry the Man Today” (always my favorite song from “Guys and Dolls”) is one of those divine pleasures that is a privilege to see.
But just about all the numbers in this production of “Guys and Dolls” are terrific, reaching a crescendo by the time of Mark Roach’s thrilling “Luck Be a Lady” and then almost topped by “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” sung by the wonderful Scott Cote as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who would have made the originator of the role—Stubby Kaye—quite proud. But this is one of those shows that truly operates on all cylinders, with top notch scenic design by Paul Tate dePoo III, costume design by Tracy Christensen and lighting design by Stephen Terry (love those neon signs seen in the New York street scenes!) Also, Michael O’Flaherty leads a cracker jack orchestra playing Dan DeLange’s new orchestrations that honor the Ted Royal originals quite nicely.
In Goodspeed Opera House’s super production of “Guys and Dolls,” the whole company is utterly superb and it amazing to see how the director and choreographer have managed to get so many people on the relatively small stage, especially in the roof-raising dance numbers. This “Guys and Dolls” is truly one of those amazing shows where all the elements of musical theatre coalesce perfectly, and it is quite a sight to see. I didn’t think that Goodspeed Opera House could possibly match (or even top) their memorable stagings of “Fiddler on the Roof” or “The Most Happy Fella,” but, with “Guys and Dolls,” they have produced another winner that ultimately ranks as an absolute must.
“Guys and Dolls” continues performances at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT through June 20, 2015. For tickets, please visit http://www.goodspeed.org or call the box office at (860) 873-8668.