Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri
Some musicals survive because they are timely; others because they are dated and, thus, nostalgic. Guys and Dolls is kind of both.
Set in New York City, the 1950 Broadway hit features gamblers, dancing girls, and a Salvation Army band meeting at the intersection of sin and salvation. That still happens somewhere, no doubt, but fewer people worry so much nowadays about whether their mother thinks they are married, and they’re less likely to ascribe intangible traits, such as luck, to a particular sex. But none of that matters. It’s still an enjoyable show, and the EPAC Repertory Co. at the Endicott Performing Arts Center has done a great job with it.
Director Pat Foti and musical director Paula Bacorn have lined up a terrific ensemble and some pretty amazing leads. I attended the dress rehearsal Thursday night, and due to unforeseen circumstances, was unable to stay until the end, but if the first act is any indication, the company is having a lot of fun with this show, and so will the audience.
Based on stories by Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. The book, by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, follows high-roller Sky Masterson (Douglas Harrington) as he bets Nathan Detroit (Vito Longo) and his gambling pals that he can trick evangelical proselytizer Sarah Brown (Gianna Chen) to dine with him — in Havana!
Sky accomplishes this by promising Sarah a room full of sinners for her upcoming midnight revival meeting. But what better place for Nathan to host his floating crap game than Sarah’s storefront mission while she is on her Cuban dinner date? The vice squad’s Lt. Brannigan (Colin Cook) will never find them there, right?
Harrington and Chen have lovely singing voices and natural line delivery. Longo and Jana Kucera (as his doll, Adelaide) are also terrific, but I have to say the ladies in particular (including the supporting cast) are a joy to watch and listen to.
Kucera’s portrayal of long-engaged but not-yet-married Adelaide is perfect, alternately belting and squeaking out her lyrics adorably. Chen’s classically trained voice (she credits Mary Lou Muratori) is used very effectively for “I’ll Know,” “If I Were a Bell” and other numbers. Both women have stage presence. They’re naturals.
Joining them as the rest of the “Dolls” are Katie Phykitt, Alexia Lamb, Jessica Hyland, Stefanie Jump, Ashley Sinicki and Emily Foti. Foti also choreographs the performers, and her dance number in the Havana cantina worth the cost of admission. Stacy Ernst’s costumes are authentic and look great from the house.
The rest of the “guys” are played by Justin Grosvenor, Jamie Cook, Eli Carlin, Rick Kumpon, Peyton Hawkes, Matt Gaska, Mike Clark, Corey Brady and Alex Griffin.
Rick Barton, Deb Mallen, Samantha Gurn, Robert Donlin and Kim Ross simulate banging drums and blowing horns to represent the Mission Band. All are adequately righteous and indignant, especially Mallen as General Matilda B. Cartwright. I wouldn’t mess with her!
Projected images and minimal set pieces do a good job of evoking New York City, the storefront mission and the Havana nightclub. Some of the actors use wireless microphones, which cut out every now and then during rehearsal but, presumably will be ready for tonight.
NOTE: BAMirror Editor Barb Van Atta also attended the final dress rehearsal (there are just TOO MANY things going on this weekend) and offered the following Act II observations:
- Nancy missed the best of the projected images, the abandoned sewer tunnel where Big Jule from Chicago (Hawkes) and the NYC gamblers shoot craps.
- Foti ups her choreographic game further with “The Crapshooters’ Dance. ” Nice work, guys (and a couple of well-disguised dolls).
- Barton has a lovely turn in Act II with “More I Cannot Wish You.”
- Gaska (Nicely-nicely Johnson) — half of a well-sung Act I duet with Kumpon (Benny Southstreet) — takes every advantage of his solo spotlight in Act II’s “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat.”
- Hawkes, Brady and Kumpon have some sharp comedic moments.
- And, finally, as enjoyable as Adelaide’s solo work (“Adelaide’s Lament” and “Take Back Your Mink”) is, it is even more fun to watch Kucera and Longo sparring through “Sue Me.”
IF YOU GO: The show opens at 8 p.m. today (Friday, July 13) at the Endicott Performing Arts Center, 102 Washington Ave., Endicott. Additional performances are 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (July 14-5). For ticket information, call the box office at 785-8903 or visit endicottarts.com.