Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Guys and Dolls
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Oliver! and The Apple Family Cycle: Sorry and Regular Singing


Paul Binotto and Lauren Weinberg
Photo by Stan Barouh
At this late date, what is left to say about Guys and Dolls? Everyone knows and loves the classic 1950 musical by Frank Loesser (music and lyrics) and Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows (book), and a surprising number of people have been involved in productions of it. The important thing about the current production at the Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington is that it more than fulfills all expectations, led by Michael J. Bobbitt's exuberant choreography and Jerry Whiddon's sense of pacing.

Whiddon and Bobbitt have gathered a cast well equipped to navigate the streets of Damon Runyon's fantasy version of 1940s Times Square: determinedly non-threatening gamblers and small-time hoods who would never carry a gun, a ladies' man who would never misuse a vulnerable woman, and a brassy nightclub star who dreams of domesticity, all of whom speak in a ridiculously elegant version of street vernacular. What's not to enjoy?

As Nathan Detroit, proprietor of "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York," Paul Binotto is amusingly frantic. A small man, Binotto is in a constant state of agitation, whether he's cajoling a garage owner to let him use the garage for the crap game or trying to persuade his "well-known fiancée," Miss Adelaide (Lauren Weinberg), to wait a little longer for marriage than the 14 years she's already waited. Weinberg is a delightful Adelaide who stands by Nathan even when he's driving her crazy and never loses her sense of dignity.

Matt Faucher is smooth and confident as Sky Masterson and Jessica Lauren Ball is a lovely Sarah Brown, shifting from a buttoned-up soprano in the early scenes to a killer dancer in the Havana sequence. Other standouts are round-faced Tobias Young as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Richard Pelzman, who towers over the rest of the cast, as the intimidating Chicago mobster Big Jule.

Dan Conway's scenic design carries on the old-fashioned atmosphere, using a flat back wall representing the New York City skyline and two-dimensional drops of marquees, street signs, and other landmarks. Balconies at the sides of the proscenium represent settings in Havana and in the New York sewers, while the floor space is open to accommodate the bodies flying through the air and tangling with each other that are part of Bobbitt's dances. Rosemary Pardee's costumes and Colin K. Bills' lighting add to the reality of Runyonland.

The eight accomplished musicians, led by pianist Doug Lawler, sit at the back of the stage, always present but not intrusive.

Olney Theatre Center
Guys and Dolls
November 11th - December 27th
Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon
Nicely-Nicely Johnson: Tobias Young
Benny Southstreet: Evan Casey
Rusty Charlie: Nurney
Sarah Brown: Jessica Lauren Ball
Arvide Abernathy: Leo Erickson
Agatha: Julia Klavans
Calvin: Andre Hinds
Martha: Amanda Kaplan
Harry the Horse: Ben Cunis
Lt. Brannigan: Ron Heneghan
Nathan Detroit: Paul Binotto
Miss Adelaide: Lauren Weinberg
Sky Masterson: Matt Faucher
Joey Biltmore: Ron Heneghan
Hot Box MC: Andre Hinds
Mimi: Jocelyn Isaac
Allison: Marylee Adams
General Matilda B. Cartwright: Valerie Leonard
Big Jule: Richard Pelzman
Drunk: David Landstrom
Waiter: Ethan Kasnett
Guys: Andre Hinds, Ethan Kasnett, David Landstrom, Nurney, Tony Thomas
Dolls: Marylee Adams, Jocelyn Isaac, Amanda Kaplan, Julia Klavans
Directed by Jerry Whiddon
Musical director: Timothy Splain
Choreographer: Michael J. Bobbitt
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.


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