This Broadway classic proves what I've suspected all along. You don't need falling chandeliers or singing cats or awesome barricades to keep audiences entertained. All it takes is show-stopping tunes and a stageful of colorful characters.
This bright, splashy production of "Guys and Dolls" may not run as long as Nathan and Adelaide's engagement (14 years) - but well it could.With its Broadway-caliber cast, energetic choreography, splendid sets and one big show-stopper after another, this puts a memorable cap on yet another outstanding Pioneer Theatre Company season.
There are so many standouts in the huge cast that I hardly know where to begin.
How about starting with Sharon Kay White as the ultimate Adelaide. She has every nuance, every gesture, every note solidly down pat. Her Hot Box nightclub numbers ("A Bushel and a Peck' and the sizzling "Take Back Your Mink") were terrific. And, wow, can she belt!
Another genuine, certified show-stopper is Daniel Marcus as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. He has some of the best comedy dialogue throughout the show, but really cuts loose in "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." This guy has a tenor voice that could rock the rafters, let alone the boat.
Show-stopper No. 3: the steamy "Havana" number where Sky Masterson (Matthew Loney) plies sweet young Save-a-Soul missionary Sarah Brown (Brigid Brady) with Cuban coconut "milkshakes." Things get progressively wilder as Sarah feels the impact of the special Cuban "flavoring" - further encouraged by the hot Latin dancing of Javier Cordoba, Robbin Shahani and Allison Stander. Cordoba may be short in stature, but he's really long on talent and agility.
Guest artists Loney and Brady are perfectly cast as gambler Masterson and naive missionary Brown.
Another standout is Bernie Sheredy as Nathan Detroit. From nervously attempting to find a site for his infamous floating crap game to postponing yet another marriage date with oft-rejected Adelaide, he glides as smoothly through his performance as the stage's turntable.
Also on the guest Equity roster is Scott Davidson as Benny Southstreet.
There are also plenty of local, notable favorites scattered throughout the cast: Tom Markus as Big Jule, Robert Peterson as Arvide Abernathy, Max Robinson as Harry the Horse, Richard Mathews as frustrated Lt. Brannigan, Frank Gerrish as Angie the Ox, Mearle Marsh as Rusty Charlie, Sam Stewart as Liver Lips Louie and Dorothy Briggs Arnold as the Save-A-Soul's Gen. Cartwright.
Charles Morey's fast-paced direction and Jayne Luke's superb choreography deserve a big round of applause. The bustling sidewalks of Times Square when the curtain first goes up have a precise-yet-frenzied Keystone Kops pace, after which the show continues to clip right along with one great Frank Loesser song after another.
This has one of the great Broadway scores of all time: "Fugue for Tinhorns," "The Oldest Established," "If I Were a Bell," "I've Never Been in Love Before," the riotously funny "Adelaide's Lament," "My Time of Day," "A Bushel and a Peck," "I'll Know," "Marry the Man Today" and "Sue Me," among others.
Rob Odorisio's scenery is also a sight to behold - a busy New York intersection designed to quickly transform itself into the staid Save-A-Soul Mission or, moments later, the sophisticated Hot Box Cabaret . . . and the tropical El Cafe Cubana in Havana . . . or Manhattan's subterranean sewers for the big crap game and Masterson's show-stopping "Luck Be a Lady."
Elizabeth Novak's wildly colored, almost cartoon-like costuming and Cynthia L. McCourt's hair and makeup designs also added to the show's slightly surrealistic, Damon Runyon "fable" look.
James Prigmore's 12-piece pit orchestra, Karl E. Hass' lighting and David Boushey's fight choreography also added to the production's professional edge.
- Sensitivity rating: A few double-entendres, adult humor and sexy dancers, but mostly this is just good, old-fashioned fun.
OPENING NIGHT was preceded by a spectacular Bravo! Awards gala and dinner on the lawn in front of Pioneer Memorial Theatre.
Just before "Guys and Dolls" started, PTC Artistic Director Charles Morey and Managing Director Chris Lino announced the 1996 Bravo! Awards.
Morey presented one award to Kennecott Corp. for its longstanding support of PTC. The award was accepted by Bob Cooper, Kennecott's president and CEO.
Another Bravo! Award was presented to longtime PTC board member and former board chairman Wm. James Mortimer, president and publisher of the Deseret News.
He was introduced by his nationally famous grandson, budding sportscaster Sparky Mortimer, who delighted the audiences with off-the-cuff stories about Grandpa Gretel (a nickname his grandfather earned after playing the role in an elementary school production of "Hansel and Gretel" as a youngster).
"Grandpa was an actor loooong before I came along," he quipped.