“Guys and Dolls”

by Stu Brown

Every so often a show at the usually reliable Goodspeed Opera House comes up short. Unfortunately, their first musical of the season, Guys and Dolls, falls into this category. There are a number of problems that upend the production, including the absence of chemistry between two of the lead characters, lackluster choreography and an overall uninspired quality to the show.

The plot revolves around gambler Nathan Detroit’s (Mark Price) desire to find a location for his constantly moving craps game. He is aided in this endeavor by his long time lieutenant Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Scott Cote). Detroit's long time girlfriend Miss Adelaide (Nancy Anderson) wants him to get out of his risk taking ways and settle down. But the big shots are in town including Sky Masterson (Tony Roach) and Nathan Detroit can taste a big score. Before the game he makes a bet with the handsome, self-confident Masterson that involves Salvation Army worker Sarah Brown (Manna Nichols) who, along with her colleagues, are only interested in saving the souls of Times Square sinners. Both worlds end up colliding, misunderstandings are straightened out, and love conquers all for an uncomplicated, happy ending.

The score by Frank Loesser is a timeless classic. There are so many glorious tunes in the musical including the comedic gems “The Oldest Establishment,” “Adelaide’s Lament,” and “Sue Me;” the rollicking title number and the boisterous and joyful “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.” If there is one reason to see this production of Guys and Dolls it is to hear such a brilliant score live.

The cast, while talented, does not mesh well and can be a bit too cartoonish. Mark Price’s Nathan Detroit is too much of a nebbish. Tony Roach’s Sky Masterson looks good, sings well, but is somewhat wooden. Nancy Anderson’s Miss Adelaide suitably whimpers and complains, but only briefly shows her character’s inner sensitivity and determination. Manna Nichols, possessing a gorgeous singing voice, does a good job keeping her emotions in check as the impassive, love-lorn Sarah Brown, but is rather unconvincing when her heart begins to flutter. Scott Cote’s Nicely-Nicely Johnson is the main bright spot among the cast. He’s funny without being too clownish and really delivers as the lead vocalist on the lively musical numbers “Guys and Dolls” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.”

Director Don Stephenson doesn’t consistently pull all the components of the musical together. Some scenes work well, others fizzle. This leads to an overall sluggish production. Alex Sanchez’s choreography lacks the pizzazz and inventiveness that is a hallmark of Goodspeed productions.

Guys and Dolls, at the Goodspeed Opera House through June 20th.

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