For all the best reasons, Guys and Dolls ranks right up there among America’s best-loved musicals. The music sparkles, the lyrics and dialogue are quintessentially American, the stories are just complex enough to pull our interest, and the characters are usually people that we can care deeply for. In this show, most of them are streetsters of New York in the 1930s as captured by the inimitable Damon Runyon, and brought to the stage by librettists Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows and composer and lyricist Frank Loesser.
On opening night of Guys and Dolls last Friday at the Cary Arts Center, Cary Players’ guest director and choreographer Nancy Gardner Rich filled the stage with a wonderfully energetic, motley assortment of two-bit hustlers, con-men, gamblers, thugs, and ladies of evening, as it were, as well as some uniformed street missionaries and soul savers. What they all have in common are wonderful voices and terpsichorean agility. The action flows, the staging is refreshing and the dances are crisp.
The eight-piece orchestra under the direction of Darylene Hecht was a treat, not just because it was not canned, but also it raised up very enjoyable music.
In case you’ve forgotten, there are two love stories intertwined with the need of Nathan Detroit to find a location for his “Oldest Established, Permanent, Floating, Crap Game in New York.” Sky Masterson and Big Julie are in town looking for some action, and each would be most unpleasantly disappointed if Nathan could not accommodate them. The lives of Nathan and Sky are complicated by their relationships with Miss Adelaide the singer and Sarah the Missionary, respectively.
Set designer Ian Robson created multiple sets and clever scene changes. He uses the forestage with the curtain down, and moves scenes around, ranging through 42nd St. and Broadway, the Hot Box Lounge, an underground hideout, and the missionary chapel. We like the rare, real, old coin telephone used in one scene.
Rachel McKay’s costumes for this large cast served the performers well as many of them played several parts. But uneven sound while the actors were singing was sometimes distracting.
Elizabeth Quesada fills the room and our hearts when she sings “Adelaide’s Lament,” the mournful paean to her sniffles brought on by not being loved. She also does smartly in the role of Adelaide, the fiancée for 14 years of Nathan Detroit.
Sky Masterson, the slick gambler, just in from Nevada with 50 grand to shoot on the dice is portrayed by Stan Williams. Williams brings a smooth elegance to the role, and works well with Sarah the Missionary (played by Lauren Bamford) in their duets. His rendition of “Luck Be a Lady,” with the craps shooters hit the mark as an old favorite.
Ted Willis does Nathan Detroit with real tough-guy swagger and throaty badass voice. But he gives in to Adelaide as meekly as a kitten when she demands.
Sarah the Missionary, played by Lauren Bamford, displays a marvelous voice with a wide range as well as a fine acting skill. Her duets with Stan Williams, including “I’ll Know” and “My Time of Day/I’ve Never Been in Love Before” are gorgeous and her solo “If I Were a Bell” truly rings.
This is a fine cast of distinct characters, who apparently had thought carefully about their roles, whether it be gangsters, missionaries or chorus girls, a cop, and in some case several types. This is a great old chestnut well worth going to see.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 1st Raleigh, NC Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/10/cary-players-rendition-of-guys-and-dolls-has-all-the-pieces-but-not-enough-glue/.
The Cary Players present GUYS AND DOLLS at 3 p.m. Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5-7, and 3 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27511. TICKETS: $20 in advance ($18 students and seniors), except $17 per person for groups of 10 or more and all tickets $20 at the door the day of the show.
BOX OFFICE: 800-514-3849 or https://www.etix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): Purchase in person at the Cary Downtown Theatre Box Office, 122 E. Chatham St. Cary, NC 27511, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
VENUE: http://www.townofcary.org/departments/parks__recreation___cultural_resources/facilities/cultural_arts_centers/caryartscenter.htm, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cary-Arts-Center/235735853122351, and http://www.caryplayers.org/cary-arts-center/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8th, performance.
“The Idyll of Sarah Brown” (1933 short story): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Idyll_of_Miss_Sarah_Brown (Wikipedia).
Guys and Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway (1950 Broadway and 1953 West End musical): http://guysanddollsthemusical.co.uk/ (official website for the current London production), http://www.mtishows.com/guys-and-dolls (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/guys-and-dolls-4133 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guys_and_Dolls (Wikipedia).
Study Guides: http://www.mtishowspace.com/action/file/download?file_guid=193843 (Music Theatre International) and https://www.bard.org/study-guides/guys-and-dolls-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Frank Loesser (composer and lyricist, 1910-69): http://www.frankloesser.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/frank-loesser-5613 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Loesser (Wikipedia).
Jo Swerling (librettist, 1897-1964): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jo-swerling-6750 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo_Swerling (Wikipedia).
Abe Burrows (librettist, 1910-85): http://www.masterworksbroadway.com/artist/abe-burrows/ (Masterworks Broadway), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/abe-burrows-3875 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abe_Burrows (Wikipedia).
Nancy Gardner Rich (Raleigh, NC-based director and choreographer ): https://www.facebook.com/nancy.g.rich.3 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.