The Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s production of Frank Loesser’s Broadway classic Guys and Dolls sings a pretty happy tune, even if it doesn’t always hit the right note.
This generally impressive take on the story of a likeable bunch of New York lowlifes who have high ambitions shines in its storytelling and characterizations, but does not always fully realize the musical possibilities of the colorfully stylized comedy.
Leading an able cast are Trey West, as slick gambler Nathan Detroit, and Becca Brown, as Adelaide, the girlfriend who has waited for Detroit to “put a ring on it” for 14 years. Both are super in their parts, from their accents to their attitudes, which perfectly capture the Runyonesque New York that is the show’s backdrop. Brown, who makes “girls” come out “goils,” does an especially great job of singing in character. Her only shortcoming is that she needs a more convincing sneeze. But, separately and together, West and Brown absolutely own this show.
Stolen Shakespeare co-artistic director Lauren Morgan, as sweet but determined Salvation Army officer Sarah Brown, sings her role beautifully — perhaps even too much so. Few voices in the rest of the cast are any match for her ringing soprano.
Michael Kreitzinger does well with the acting side of Sky Masterson, the smooth Romeo who sets his sights on Brown to win a bet with Detroit. He adroitly navigates the transition his character makes from cad to caring human being. But he sports a decidedly 21st-century look and is often overmatched by the musical’s score. Like a race car that does well in the straightaways but has trouble in the turns, he carries the basic demands of this numbers adequately. But when the composer demands something extra, Kreitzinger isn’t always able to come through.
Most of the supporting players in the large cast answer the bell smartly when their moment in the spotlight arrives. Evan Faris (Nicely-Nicely), Zane Whitney (Harry the Horse) and Walter Betts (Big Jule) are among those who tap into the spirit of this rogue-filled period piece with particular zeal.
Director Nathan Autrey moves things along at a relentless pace, tries to use every inch of his available space and treats the characters with the love they deserve. Most of the show’s bigger production numbers come off well, especially in terms of the quality of the choral singing.
But there are some problems. In addition to the vocals not always hitting the mark, the musical accompaniment by Debra Young on piano is nicely rendered but, obviously, thin. There are also some casting decisions that are head-scratchers. With a few exceptions, the Hot Box Girls looked and moved more like a defensive line than a chorus line. And the rolling set pieces did little to enhance the atmosphere of the show (unlike Morgan’s costume designs, which did).
So this is a flawed production. But the joy and enthusiasm that is apparent in almost every aspect of the overall effort help make its positives far outweigh its negatives. It’s more than worth a roll of the dice.