Photograph by Jana Marcus
Havana Nights: Dancers kick up a storm in Cabrillo Stage's 'Guys and Dolls.'
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Cabrillo Stage's 'Guys and Dolls' is a 25th anniversary tour de force
By Joyce D. Mann
Cabrillo Stage's 25th anniversary production, Guys and Dolls, is a fitting addition to the musical theater company's long line of successes. Directed and choreographed by Janie Scott, this is one of the most energetic and colorful shows to hit the Santa Cruz area in a long time. Based on stories by Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls takes us into a New York world full of vivid street scenes, tough-talking gamblers, chorus girls and Salvation Army do-gooders complete with tambourines and big bass drum--an incredible collision of cultures and lifestyles.
Addicted gambler Nathan Detroit (David Curley) is constantly looking for a venue for his floating crap game, while desperately trying to avoid commitment to his fiancee of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Hilary Little), and evade New York police Lt. Brannigan (Patrick Klein). Things get more complicated when high-roller Sky Masterson (Adrian Valente) comes on the scene. To get money to fund the crap game, Detroit challenges Masterson to a bet he's sure Masterson can never win. He must persuade Salvation Army Sgt. Sarah Brown (Danielle Crook) to go to Havana with him. The intricacies of the plot are too complex to enumerate but, needless to say, Detroit loses his bet, Sarah goes to Havana (and loves it), Masterson falls in love with Sarah, Adelaide gets her way and the doomed Detroit finds himself on his way to the 'burbs.
Curley brings a darkly humorous slant to the role of Detroit. He has a strong stage presence, but he sometimes gets lost in the melees with his sidekicks, who, apart from Nicely (Jon-Mark), are similar physical types. More distinctive costuming for Detroit might have solved this problem. Little steals the show as Adelaide. She maintains a great New York accent and manages to be bawdy, comic and poignant, all at the same time. Her scenes with Curley are priceless. Valente is a suave Masterson, a smart operator but a man with a conscience. Crook's Sarah is appropriately prim and proper until she hits the night scene in Havana and discovers the pleasures of rum. She harmonizes well with Valente. However, her voice is shrill at times and I would personally have preferred a more mellow tone. The supporting cast members are spot on in their performances. Glenn J. Davis' Benny Southstreet and Burr Nissen's Rusty Charlie deserve a special mention.
Frank Loesser's music is a series of showstoppers, ranging from raucously rowdy to deliciously romantic. Who can forget "A Bushel and a Peck," "Adelaide's Lament," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "Luck be a Lady," "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" and, of course, "Guys and Dolls"? There are many harmonious trios and quartets, as well as larger ensemble pieces. Under the direction of Jon Nordgren, the 23-piece pit orchestra has a rich resonance but doesn't overpower the singers.
The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows has some incredibly witty lines, which fly past at the speed of light. However, the lines are delivered at such a pace that the words are occasionally inaudible. There's a quandary here for vocal coach (Alice Hughes) and sound designer (Dustin Leonard), who need to improve audibility without slowing the pace.
The dancing and choreography (Janie Scott) are a tour de force. The male ensembles make unbelievable moves in their dance routines. The Hot Box girls deliver saucily flashy performances. This is a show that demands excellence in dance and the ensembles do not disappoint. Tommy Marquez's costumes reflect the styles of the '40s and '50s, but in dazzling primary colors reminiscent of Peter Max. Set design by Skip Epperson is a feast for the eyes.
Guys and Dolls is a long show, but it moves fast; there's never a dull moment. Take a gamble. Go down and celebrate 25 years of great musical theater with Cabrillo Stage.
Guys and Dolls runs through Aug. 13, with evening performances Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, and weekend matinees at 3pm, at Cabrillo College Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. For tickets call 831.479.6154 or go online at www.cabrillostage.com.
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