Theater Review: ‘Guys and Dolls’ brims with wit, song and dance

Weston Playhouse Photo Marissa McGowan leads The Hot Box Girls in “A Bushel and A Peck” in Weston Playhouse’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”

Weston Playhouse Photo
Marissa McGowan leads The Hot Box Girls in “A Bushel and A Peck” in Weston Playhouse’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”

THE LOWE DOWN | By Jim Lowe

“Guys and Dolls,” the 1960 Frank Loesser Broadway musical, isn’t merely one of the most popular musicals of all time, it’s one of the best. And the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company’s brilliant production made it clear why — with witty dialogue and effervescent songs and dancing as well as staging, along with lovable characters, it was riveting from the first moment to the last.

Most know “Guys and Dolls” from the 1955 film starring Marlon Brando as Sky and Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit, and countless community and high school productions. The show premiered in 1950, running for 1,200 performances, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, going on to endless revivals in New York and London.

With music and lyrics by Loesser, and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Barrows, it is based on “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure,” as well as borrowing characters from other Damon Runyon stories.

Set in the seedy Broadway of Runyon’s New York, the tale hinges upon a bet. Nathan Detroit, proprietor of the city’s traveling crap game, and in need of $1,000 to secure a new location, wagers star gambler Sky Masterson that he cannot convince Sarah Brown, the virginal Salvation Army captain, to go on a date with him to Havana.

But the real fun comes from the colorful characters surrounding them. In fact, the predictable romance between Sky and Sarah takes a decidedly second place to that of Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide, his fiancée of 14 years.

But this isn’t a Shakespeare romantic comedy — though the dialog is brilliantly witty — it’s all about the singing and dancing and fun.

Directed by Malcolm Ewen, Weston’s production enjoys a particularly apt cast.

At Friday’s performance, Samuel Lloyd Jr. and Marissa McGowan as Nathan and Adelaide managed to create delightfully comic characters without resorting to real caricature. More importantly, they were most sympathetic — and McGowan proved a brilliant singer and dancer.

The more earnest lovers, Sarah and Sky, were delivered romantically both theatrically and vocally by Andrea Prestinario and Sean Palmer. They were a perfect leading couple — fighting as well as loving.

Another couple proved particularly entertaining, though not lovers: Matt Wolpe and Jim Raposa as the gamblers Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet. Geoffrey Wade was perfectly cast as the spoilsport Lt. Brannigan, as was Dorothy Stanley as Gen. Cartwright. In fact, among the huge cast there wasn’t a noticeably weak performance.

As brilliant as any performance, Michael Raine’s choreography was imaginative and electric, and Weston’s young dancers delivered.

Larry Pressgrove, the music director, led a five-piece pit band that sounded like an orchestra. The performance was also supported by a visual effervescence, thanks to beautiful comic book sets by Howard C. Jones, creatively lit by Ann G. Wrightson, with gorgeous costumes by Karen Ann Ledger.

With Weston’s “Guys and Dolls, tried and true became fresh and effervescent.

Weston Playhouse
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company presents “Guys and Dolls,” the classic Frank Loesser Broadway musical, July 30-Aug. 22 at the Weston Playhouse, 12 Park St. (off Route 100) in Weston. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, plus 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tickets are $61-$47, half price for students; call 824-5288, or go online to www.westonplayhouse.org.

Jim Lowe is music critic and arts editor for the Rutland Herald and The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus.
E-MAILjim.lowe@rutlandherald.com