GUYS AND DOLLS
A Musical Fable of Broadway
Based on a Story and Characters of Damon Runyon
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Company of Rowlett Performers
Director – Donna Covington
Music Director – Angel Caruth
Choreographer – Nancy Pistilli
Spotlight – Steven Covington
Stage Manager – Meghan Settle
Sound & Lights – Donna Covington and Angel Caruth
Nicely-Nicely Johnson – Dane Hoffman
Benny Southstreet – Richard Woodiel
Rusty Charlie – Toney Smith
Sarah Brown – Megan Liles
Arvide Abernathy – Phil Alford
Agatha – Tami Leal
Calvin – Matthew Jeffcoat
Martha – Meghan Settle
Harry the Horse – Aaron Gibson
Lieutenant Brannigan – Tom Jeffcoat
Nathan Detroit – Steve Golin
Angie the Ox – Kenneth Towle
Miss Adelaide – Whitney Rosenbalm
Sky Masterson – Juan M. Perez
Joey Biltmore – Jacob Catalano
Mimi – Elena Bianco
General Matilda Cartwright – Kristan Kelley
Big Jule – Lloyd E. Turney
Ferguson – Cami Willis
Vernon – Kami Kelley
ASllison – Ashley Rush
Liver Lips Louis – Andrew Alford
Reviewed Performance: 6/25/2017
Reviewed by Darlene Singleton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on Damon Runyon’s stories of the New York underworld, with a score by composer Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, GUYS AND DOLLS premiered in 1950 at New York’s 46th Street Theatre. Runyon’s comic zingers and his scoundrel-like characters – horseplayers and high rollers, chiselers and wisecracking chorus girls – inspired numerous screen adaptations, including the 1955 film starring Marlon Brando. The original stage production was an immediate success and it continues to be enjoyed by audiences today. The CORP Theatre production of this popular show was every bit as appealing as the original and it was an entertaining show for a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The story centers on a variety of Broadway inhabitants, including gamblers and the missionaries who try to save them. Nathan Detroit (Steve Golin) runs the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York and due to increased pressure from the police, he cannot find a suitable location for the next game. This is most troublesome because Sky Masterson (Juan Perez), Big Jule (Lloyd Turney), and other high rollers are in town. The only place left (or so they think) is the Biltmore Garage, but the owner is demanding a $1,000 deposit and Nathan is broke. So, he makes a bet with Sky who is known as a man who will bet on anything. The bet is that Sky cannot take a “doll” of Nathan’s choice to dinner in Havana, and, on cue, the Mission band marches across the stage as Nathan chooses the leader of the Save-a-Soul Mission, Sarah Brown (Megan Liles).
When Sarah needs sinners to come to the prayer meetings to keep the mission open, Sky promises to deliver them and Sarah agrees to go to Havana with him. While there Sarah asks for a milkshake and Sky orders a Dulce de Leche for her which contains, according to Sky, the “preservative” of Bacardi. They end up drinking a lot of “milkshakes.” She starts to fall for Sky and he for her and they return to New York.
Meanwhile, Nathan’s fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide (Whitney Rosenbalm) performs at the Hot Box nightclub. She is becoming impatient to get married, but she is willing to wait so long as Nathan gives up gambling, and she believes he has. Nathan has lost the bet with Sky and he is still broke, so he hits on a unique idea - having the crap game at the mission since it’s not being used from midnight to 4:00 am. And that’s just the beginning of the story.
Director Donna Covington has ample space to work with on the Plaza Theatre stage and the cast used every bit of it to its best ability. The cast allowed the musical to shine with a minimal set of various backdrops suggesting Manhattan, or a Havana night club, or even the bowels of the city sewer. A movable storefront and café tables and chairs provided sparse but ample scenery.
The show opened with a quick welcome by Rusty Charlie (Toney Smith) and he was joined onstage by Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Dane Hoffman) and Benny Southstreet (Richard Woodiel). Their song Fugue for Tinhorns held the audiences’ attention and their energy set the tone for the next three hours.
As with every review I always have a favorite and this show was no exception. Dane Hoffman as Nicely-Nicely owned the stage in every scene and I mean just what it implies – he is a wonderful singer and a delightful performer, and the Plaza Theatre stage was his personal playground for as long as he chose to perform on it. His rendition of Sit Down, You’re a Rockin’ the Boat was joyously marvelous – it was all I could do to not raise my hands in the air and say hallelujah.
Steve Golin was entertaining as he revealed Nathan Detroit with a natural, seemingly effortless style that was quite charming. He sings The Oldest Established as a hymn to gambling, but is sweet and romantic in Sue Me as he tries to convince Adelaide of his love. Golin’s singing voice is so good and effortless but he always has a mischievous twinkle in his eye that makes you wonder if he is sincere or just a con artist.
Whitney Rosenbalm was perfectly cast as Miss Adelaide. She is funny and quirky and was exceptional in her role. Rosenbalm held the trademark New York accent of Adelaide whether singing or speaking. She was hilarious in Adelaide’s Lament where she believes she has psychosomatic illnesses, brought on by her long, uncertain engagement to Nathan. The chemistry between Rosenbalm and Golin did not go unnoticed by my guest or myself.
Gambler Sky Masterson is portrayed by Juan Perez who takes on the role with panache and he has a wonderful singing voice. Megan Liles plays missionary Sarah Brown with a radiant, professional-quality soprano voice. When together they sang the ballads, I’ll Know and I’ve Never Been in Love Before they had the audience in the palm of their hands. Occasionally I see an actress onstage that I hope to see again and again across the DFW metroplex and Megan Liles is one of those. Liles owned the stage during her scenes – she was very believable as we watched her character grow from the unsure self-contained missionary woman to a crazy drunk lady enjoying life and embracing love then to realize it was all a sham (or was it?).
Many of the talented actors gave enjoyable performances but I must give a shout-out to Phil Alford as Arvide Abernathy, Sarah Brown’s grandfather. He sang More I Cannot Wish You and his voice was warm and rich, and his love for his granddaughter was so believable. Also a noteworthy performance was given by Aaron Gibson as Harry the Horse – he was so funny that I caught myself watching him to see what silly antic he would do next.
All in all, GUYS AND DOLLS was an entertaining afternoon of musical theatre fun.