Stage 62, a resident theater company of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Musical Hall (ACFL&MH) is presenting the iconic Broadway show Guys and Dolls. This classic encompasses all the elements of great musicals, energetic dance numbers, robust chorus, charming story, lighthearted lyrics, and sweet melodies with just the right measure of comedy. Directed by Seth Laidlaw, Stage 62 revives the enchanting relationships of Sarah and Sky, Adelaide and Nathan, the passion of Save- the- Souls Mission and their band, the spunky Hot Box Girls and a host of gruff gamblers, for the 2018 season finale.
Guys and Dolls opens in Times Square, New York, a place teeming with sinners. This is the perfect spot for Sarah Brown (Stephanie Ottey) Sergeant of Save- A- Soul Mission, to stand on her soapbox, literally, and preach the evils of gambling, inviting sinners to repent before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Nathan Detroit (Andy Coleman) is trying to secure $1000.00 to pay Joey Biltmore for the use of his garage for the next secret crap game. Detroit isn’t just trying to keep the plans hush from the cops but also from his fiance of 14 years, the lead singer at the Hot Box Club, Adelaide (Sara Barbisch). With the intention to earn money needed to pay Biltmore for the use of the garage, Detroit bets Sky Masterson (Ryan Hadbavny), a gambler willing to bet on anything, $1000.00 that he can’t convince Sarah Brown to have dinner with him in Havana. Sky accepts the wager and enters the mission ‘seeking redemption’. He quickly earns the trust of Sarah’s grandfather and fellow missionary Father Abernathy (Leon S. Zionts), and Sarah eventually accepts Sky’s invitation to dinner in Cuba.
Meanwhile, Adelaide puts pressure on Nathan to get married. The stress from a long engagement and the revelation that years of lying to her mother about their union and growing family, are making her physically ill. Despite Adelaide’s devotion to Nathan, she realizes the odds are stacked against her in his pursuit of the illegal crap game. The enamored Adelaide and Nathan are at odds but in Act 2, scene 4, “Sue Me”, are a splendid concert of harmony.
The naive and simple Sarah, not seeking love but the reparation of souls stumbles into a relationship with the suave and scheming, depicted in the adorably flirtatious choreography of scene 9 and the score “If I Were A Bell.” With gambling influencers like Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet, Rusty Charlie, Harry the Horse, Angie the Ox and Big Jule, will the relationship of Nathan Detroit and his doll Adelaide or the romance of Sarah and Sky survive?
Stage 62’s production of Guys and Dolls is cleverly cast. The exceptional choreography of Carly Fuller flows throughout the show, especially during “Havana,” drawing in the ensemble to turn out a number with dynamic energy. The strong supporting cast of gamblers, mission band members, crapshooters, and Hot Box Girls follow suit maintaining a solid second act in numbers such as “The Crapshooters Dance” and “Luck Be A Lady.” Jeff Way cast as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, played by Chris Martin, are a great team, highlighted during the song, “Guys and Dolls,” and I can’t omit the sweet and endearing “More I Cannot Wish You” sung by Zionts in act 2. Most memorable though are the leading ladies, Ottey and Barbisch. The gals vocal capabilities and delivery of character are delightful, particularly during, “Marry the Man Today.”
As a long time viewer of Stage 62 productions I have to mention the acoustics in the theater can be a challenge. Many times I have struggled to interpret fading lines of dialogue or muffled vocals over the sound of the orchestra or if the characters move around too much. Opening night of Guys and Dolls was notably the best experience I have had at this theater. The sound design team has perfected the sound transmission, and all the performers’ diction was distinct.
If you find yourself wondering if Stage 62’s consistently extraordinary shows are by ‘chance or chemistry,’ I would say, they’ve nailed the science of producing high caliber musicals.
Guys and Dolls runs Thursday, November 15 to 17th at 8:00 pm with a final matinee November 18th at 2:00. Click here tickets and more information.
Photos courtesy of Friedman Wagner-Dobler of Image 42
Megan Grabowski works full time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania but for fun she enjoys volunteering, as a trustee for the Crafton Public Library Board, the Girl Scouts and as a contributor to Pittsburgh in the Round. Megan grew up attending community theater performances with her parents and relishes the escapism and adventure live productions provide. Now, a mother to 2 teenage daughters, Megan is thrilled to see her girls enjoying live shows, performing on stage and creating playlists of their favorite showtunes. To keep up on writing trends, news and cool cultural stuff, follow Megan on Facebook @mjgrabowskiwordsmith
Categories: Archived Reviews