Regional Reviews: Seattle
Guys and Dolls
Guys and Dolls is set to the still potent music and lyrics of Frank Loesser (whose mountainous tune stack from Tin Pan Alley to Hollywood to Broadway remains an amazing achievement). The book, derived from two short stories by Damon Runyon (which celebrated the world of Broadway that grew out of the Prohibition era in the 1920s) was adapted primarily by Abe Burrows who reworked the initial script by Jo Swerling to better complement the songs. Our romantic hero and heroine are slick, raffish gambler Sky Masterson and reined-in mission worker Sarah Brown, and the secondary comic pair are nightclub star Miss Adelaide and sad-sack gambler Nathan Detroit. Can a high roller and a principled do-gooder sustain their odd-couple romance? Can the brassy nightclub headliner keep from giving the old heave ho to her hapless gambler guy? And where in blazes is the pivotal floating crap game going to take place? These questions were answered over half-a-century ago, and I won't spoil anything for younger audiences by just saying that the net result is as happy and hokey ever after as they come.
Dane Stokinger's Sky is pure charm and larceny, and Mallory King's Sarah is a Hell's Kitchen angel tempted by the high-rolling devil. These actors have chemistry (yes, chemistry) and the voices do justice to their songs, from the earnestly ardent duet "I've Never Been in Love Before" to their respective standout solos, Sky's "Luck Be a Lady" and Sarah's "If I Were a Bell." Kate Jaeger makes Adelaide comic yet adorable. She delivers the brassy humor on "A Bushel and a Peck" and synchronizes sensationally with King on "Marry the Man Today, with Matt Wolfe as her good old reliable Nathan. Wolfe makes a bombastic, frenetically giddy yet golden-hearted fellow. In other words, he understands what the role needs far better than the miscast old blue eyes did in the film version.
Serving up the silly and sassy to the proper degree as supporting crapshooters are Kyle Nicholas Anderson as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, John David Scott as Benny Southstreet, and M.J. Jurgensen as Rusty Charlie, who share the bouncy title song and the show-opening "Fugue for Tinhorns" with aplomb. Anderson also does a dandy job with his solo, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" late in act two. Broadway vet turned Seattle standout Allen Fitzpatrick is warm and gently humorous as Sarah's grandfather Arvide Abernathy, dishing out poignance on "More I Cannot Wish You." Terrence Kelley delights as the toweringly tall and appropriately named Big Jule, a Chicago gangster with a lot of bluster. Kate E. Cook is a standout ensemble member amongst a fierce team of singer/dancers. And in the luxury casting department, Bobbi Kotula shows just how much zing a veteran actress can bring to a role as tiny as the Save-a-Soul Mission's General Cartwright.
Choreographer Niki Long follows her best instincts in providing choreographic panache for the opening "Runyonland" ensemble, a saucy "A Bushel and a Peck," a tempestuous "Havana" sequence, and the athletic "Crapshooters' Ballet." The only big miss in the show is the "Take Back Your Mink" number, which overlays a questionable concept on a number that didn't need reconception. And also, it seems like the Hot Box club never has any audience besides Nathan Detroit. Surely a few ensemble players could have filled a of couple tables?
Musical director Julia Thornton has done accomplished work with both her band and vocalists. Scenic designer Steven Capone conveys an appropriate yet original style throughout, with lighting designer David Gipson also doing top-tier work. Costume designer Cathy Meacham Hunt's in-period costumes burst with color, and sound designer Haley Parcher never falters with her music and dialogue mixes.
Guys and Dolls runs through December 29, 2019, in Issaquah before moving to Village Theatre's Everett location January 3 - February 2, 2020. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.villagetheatre.org, over the phone at 425-392-2202 (Issaquah) or 425-257-8600 (Everett), or by visiting the box office.