Entertainment » Theatre

Guys & Dolls

by Rodney Rodriguez
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jul 13, 2017
Guys & Dolls

Sometimes in theater, as in life, you find something reliable you simply forgot about. Maybe it was something you took for granted, or just put up on a high shelf somewhere or perhaps something you lent away only to have it returned as a surprise to you. Perhaps you try it on, or plug it in, or stand with it in your hands just so you can feel the weight and you remember the comfort, the joy, the simple pleasure it brings. And sometimes that creature comfort comes to life on stage.

"Guys and Dolls" is now open on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park, and it is a renaissance for one of Broadway's most classical musicals.

When good old reliable Nathan Detroit (J. Bernard Calloway) needs a place to host his regular underground floating crap game, he turns to old acquaintance Sky Masterson (Terence Archie) for the dough he needs to book his venue. Knowing Sky isn't a typical pushover, Nathan concocts a scheme to swindle the money away from Sky, but in musical theater, as in life, nothing goes according to plan. Based on Damon Runyon's characters and story, this show features a spectacular score and lyrics composed by the immortal Frank Loesser with book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Returning to the Old Globe to helm this project is director and choreographer Josh Rhodes who left audiences spellbound with the magic he created in last year's hit "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery." His creation this time around was easily on par with his last success crafting a high energy musical that left everyone whisked and winded and won over. Particularly difficult is the task of reinventing a show that is performed enough to become a cliché, but Rhodes found the sweet spot and made even me fall in love all over again with a show I've seen more times than I can count.

A director is only as good as his cast, and this cast is absurdly talented. Try not falling in love with Todd Buonopane as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Outrageously over-the-top with a voice that goes for days, Buonopane managed a performance that outpaced his characters' moniker.

Archie and Calloway are superb as Masterson and Detroit respectively with Archie playing the smooth-talking opportunist to Calloway's seedy and scrumptiously tacky Nathan Detroit. Opposite them are Veronica Kuehn as the shrill Miss Adelaide and Audrey Cardwell as the straight Sarah Brown. Kuehn is spry and quirky and the quintessential heyday musical bombshell while Cardwell's character resides on the opposite pole though equally engaging. Easy to fall in love with, these two try hard to steal the show, but balance in this cast wins the day. Fleet-footed and euphonious, this ensemble was impeccably cast and had me dancing out the door.

An effervescent performance requires an equally vibrant backdrop, which scenic designer Lee Savage provided. Brazen and dazzling, Savage's backdrops were at times larger than life, matching the characters on stage. Particularly eye-catching was a simple scrim on stage between performances with the title of the show that seemed to dance via some fun and quirky optical illusion.

Brian C. Hemesath's costuming was impeccably conceived including one particularly racy scene involving some unambiguously placed flower petals. Assisting Rhodes in directing and choreography was Lee Wilkins who combined talents again after previously working together on Broadway's "Bright Star" which debuted at The Old Globe just a few seasons ago. This show's movement and stage composition cannot be understated; it has been a long time since I have seen such methodical blocking and eloquent storytelling through movement and dance. The creative team simply excelled, and it was fantastically obvious.

Continuing the most exciting part of the Old Globe's season, "Guys and Dolls" is an utter classical delight and must-see. Two more shows are in the pipeline for this summer season including "Baskerville" playwright Ken Ludwig's newest creation "Robin Hood!" and Shakespeare's masterwork "Hamlet" to be directed by The Old Globe's own Artistic Director and adroit Shakespearean fellow Barry Edelstein. We are fortunate to live in a city with a markedly underrated theater scene so get out and enjoy it while the temperatures, and the stages, are hot.

"Guys and Dolls" runs through August 13th on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. For information or tickets, call 619-23-GLOBE or visit www.TheOldGlobe.org

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