Of Dice and Men
By Charlie Kringas
With a roll of the dice and resounding applause, the 1950s musical classic Guys and Dolls opened at Performance Riverside June 5. Directed by Douglas Austin, with choreography by John Vaughan and musical direction by Scott T. Smith, this Inland Empire revival reinforces the musical’s status as Broadway royalty.
Guys and Dolls, (from the book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, with lyrics and music by Frank Loesser) comes with impressive credentials: It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1951, for Best Musical Revival in 1992 and was nominated again this year for Best Musical Revival. That being said, the production of Guys and Dolls currently running on Broadway has received disapproval from critics and fans alike. Contrasting the lackluster production in NYC, Performance Riverside has provided the IE with a hit.
Guys and Dolls opens with an upbeat overture and a New York street alive with tourists, assorted street hustlers, policeman, gamblers and marching missionaries. All the hot gamblers are in town and they’re all depending on Nathan Detroit (Jamie Snyder) to set up this week’s incarnation of the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.” The only problem is he needs $1,000 to secure a location.
Oh, and there is Nathan’s other little problem: Miss Adelaide. Adelaide (Stacy Huntington) is the simple, but loveable showgirl at the Hot Box nightclub and Nathan’s fiancé of 14 years. She suffers from a chronic upper respiratory affliction caused by Nathan’s inability to commit.Marching through the crowd of New York gamblers, Sarah Brown (Jessica Bernard), the staunch missionary sergeant, must find a way to attract sinners to the mission office she runs in order to keep it from closing down. Hope comes her way when Sky Masterson (Jeremy Bernard) promises to deliver 12 sinners to her midnight prayer meeting. Of course, the well-known self-absorbed gambler has an underlying motive behind his offer of help. He has bet Nathan $1,000 that he can get Sarah to go to Havana with him. Miss Brown agrees to a deal for the delivery of a dozen sinners and Nathan promises to finally marry Adelaide—if he can just find a place for one more game. The result of all this wheeling and dealing is some great song-and-dance numbers and a heartwarming good time.
T.J. Dawson’s performance as Nicely Nicely Johnson, stood out even more than his hilarious plaid suit while singing “Sit down, You’re Rockin‘ the Boat.” He and Casey Garritano, as Benny Southstreet, were delightful in their renditions of “Fugue for Tinhorns” and “Guys and “Dolls.” Michael Hill, as the colorful Big Jule, was a perfect casting choice and refreshing to see among the sea of youngsters on stage. John Vaughan’s creative choreography was impressive, especially in numbers such as “Crapshooters’ Ballet” and the titular song.
As usual with Performance Riverside, the orchestra was top-notch and worth the price of admission all on its own. You probably won’t be inspired to run off to a local casino or make a beeline to a nearby church, but Guys and Dolls evens the odds that you’ll heartily enjoy the show.
Performance Riverside’s Guys and Dolls at the Landis Performing Arts Center at Riverside Community College, 4800 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 222-8100, www.performanceriverside.org; June 12, 8PM; June 13, 2PM, 8PM; June 14, 2PM. $25-$43, $8 for school and senior groups.