Review: Guys and Dolls (Marriott Theatre)

  
  

Holy Rollers, Batman!

  
  

Brian Hissong as Sky Masterson in Marriott Theatre's 'Guys and Dolls'

  
Marriott Theatre presents
  
Guys and Dolls
  
Written by Frank Loesser
Directed and choreographed by
Matt Raftery
at
Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
through March 27  |  tickets: $40-$48  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Damon Runyon knew Broadway like the beat of his heart—from its sewers to its gospel missions. Those in fact are two of the exotic locales in Guys and Dolls, the always lovable, inexhaustibly right 1950 musical that Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows concocted from Runyon’s delightful short stories. Collected by Loesser in 1932, those good-hearted, slang-filled tales of Broadway sharpies, Rod Thomas as Nathan, Jessie Mueller as Adelaide in Marriott Theatre's 'Guys and Doll's'floozies, high rollers, suckers, and the frustrated reformers who tried to clean up their act are still well worth the read.

For those who don’t know this merry musical, Guys and Dolls traces the very opposite attraction of gambler Sky Masterson for Sister Sarah Brown, a naïve Salvation Army lassie: An unlikely couple, by show’s end the two feel just right together. Another off-beat romance pairs Nathan Detroit, organizer of New York’s "oldest established, permanently floating crap game," and Miss Adelaide, a dimly-lit showgirl frustratedly engaged to Nathan for 14 years, who has her famous, constant cold to show for it.

Joined by such richly-named urban denizens as Harry the Horse, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie, they all return to full and happy life in this Marriott Theatre revival. If in songs like "Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat" and the title hummer, Frank Loesser found a savvy musical equivalent to Runyon’s wonderful oddballs. Director Matt Raftery has his gritty-rich equivalents too, notably Jessie Mueller as adenoidal Adelaide ("a person could develop a cold"), a wackily evasive Rod Thomas as her hilariously allergic-to-marriage Nathan, and leather-lunged George Andrew Wolff as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, a crap shooter who improbably finds religion on a bet.

     
Rod Thomas, Bernie Yvon, George Andrew Wolff, Brian Hissong in Frank Loesser's 'Guys and Dolls' at Marriott Theatre. Rod Thomas as Nathan, Jessie Mueller as Adelaide in Frank Loesser's 'Guys and Dolls' at Marriott Theatre
Rod Thomas as Nathan, Jessie Mueller as Adelaide in Marriott Theatre's 'Guys and Dolls' Abby Mueller as Sarah, Brian Hissong as Sky in Marriott Theatre's 'Guys and Dolls'.

Abby Mueller shows why Sarah is such a rich role: In her "I’ve Never Been in Love Before" and her inebriated "If I Were a Bell" she acts her way through songs that say it all. As her gambling man with a soul to be saved, suave and handsome Brian Hissong brings to "I’ll Know" and "Luck Be A Lady" a rich, unforced baritone that’s pretty persuasive. Playing Sarah’s Samaritan/Salvation mentor, Roger Mueller makes much of his tender "More I Cannot Wish You" and John Lister brings hometown conviction to Big Julie from Chicago (apparently the only thug in New York who carries a gun).

Picturing the period perfectly, Tom Ryan’s urbane set nicely set off the fedoras and loudly colored, wide-lapeled suits that costume designer Nancy Missimi contrasts with the chorines’ pink fluffery. Combine these with this cunning cast and Raftery’s crisp and unconventional choreography and you’ve got a show to lift anyone from the winter doldrums.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

Jessie Mueller as Adelaide, Abby Mueller as Sarah - Marriott Theatre

     
     

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Theatre at the Center announces 2011 Season

Theatre at the Center

 

announces their

 

2011 Season

 

Coming off of a streak of some of the most successful seasons to date, Theatre at the Center Artistic Director William Pullinsi, announces their 2011 season, including Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, Nunset Boulevard, The Wiz, Guys and Dolls and Another Night Before Christmas

theatre at the center stage

February 17 – March 20, 2011

   
  Sleuth
   
  The season opens with one of the greatest stage thrillers, the masterpiece of suspense, Sleuth. The play, written by Andrew Shaffer, won the Tony Award for Best Play and inspired two film versions.  When an aging mystery writer lures his wife’s lover to his mansion, the younger man becomes unwittingly drawn into a tangled web of intrigue and gamesmanship, where nothing is quite as it seems. This edge-of-your-seat mystery filled with cunning plot twists is not only an exciting "whodunit" but a fascinating “whodunwhat."  The New York Times says Sleuth is "Clever, intricate…good, neat, clean and bloody fun and I most cordially recommend it.”  Sleuth will be directed by Theatre at the Center Artistic Director William Pullinsi and will run February 17 through March 20, 2011.

 

April 28 – May 29, 2011

   
  Nunset Boulevard
   
  Directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster, Theatre at the Center presents the Chicago Area Premiere of the newest addition to Dan Goggin’s hilarious NUNSENSE line-up: Nunset Boulevard running April 28 through May 29, 2011.  The Little Sisters of Hoboken have been invited to sing at the Hollywood Bowl. They are thrilled at the prospect until they arrive and realize that they are booked into the Hollywood Bowl-A-Rama, a bowling alley with a cabaret lounge; having to contend with announcements from the bowling alley public address system as well as the activity on the lanes. The light at the end of the tunnel comes when word arises that a famous movie producer is auditioning across the street roles for his new movie musical, "NUNSET BOULEVARD: A Song from the Hart," about the life of Dolores Hart, the famous movie star who became a nun. The Sisters, who think they are obvious naturals for parts, race off to audition. NBC News raves,"Talk about a happy habit. The "nuns" have done it again. Sinfully funny laughs for the entire two hours."

 

July 7 – August 7, 2011

   
  The Wiz
   
  The Tony Award-winning musical, The Wiz, plays Theatre at the Center July 7 through August 7, 2011. The R&B musical adaptation of the book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum first opened on Broadway in 1975.  Dorothy’s adventures in the Land of Oz have been set in a dazzling, lively mixture of rock, gospel and soul music. Its Broadway run, for four years and over 1600 performances, was historic as a large-scale big-budget musical featuring an all-African American cast. The production features the music and lyrics of Charlie Smalls and book by William F. Brown.  It won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and was later produced in the 1978 Motown/Universal motion picture adaptation starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor. Time Magazine says The Wiz is “a carnival of fun… a wickedly amusing show.” Stacey Flaster will direct and choreograph the production.

 

September 15 – October 16, 2011

   
  Guys and Dolls
   
  Based on “The Idyll of Sarah Brown” by Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls is an exhilarating Tony Award-winning romantic comedy packed with gamblers, gangsters, missionaries, showgirls, and lively fun. Theatre at the Center Artistic Director William Pullinsi will direct the production running September 15 – October 16, 2011.  Guys and Dolls is the story of a group of gamblers in New York and the ladies in their lives. Sky has been bet that he can’t make the next lady that he sees fall in love with him, and when that next lady happens to be the prim and proper neighborhood missionary Sarah Brown, the stage is set for an evening of high-spirited entertainment.  Frank Loesser‘s toe-tapping score includes “Luck Be A Lady,” “Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat” and “If I Were a Bell.”  Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway on November 24, 1950 and ran for 1,200 performances, winning five 1951 Tony Awards. In London it ran for 555 performances. In 1955 the acclaimed film version was released, starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine.

November 17 – December 18, 2011

   
  Another Night Before Christmas
   
  From the writers of MARRIED ALIVE! and A DOG’S LIFE Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto, comes Another Night Before Christmas, bringing holiday cheer to Theatre at the Center November 17 through December 18, 2011.  Another Night Before Christmas tells the story of burnt-out social worker Karol Elliot, who is having a crisis of Christmas spirit. While heading home on a lonely Christmas Eve, she shares her groceries with a homeless man who decides to show his thanks and rekindle her holiday cheer by breaking into her apartment later that night insisting that he’s Santa Claus.  Instead of stealing her belongings, he brings in a bag of goodies and transforms her downtown apartment into a blinking, red and green wonderland. Before long Karol begins to wonder, is this bearded stranger more than what he seems? Another Night Before Christmas is a delight for the whole family. This witty and tuneful holiday favorite, Directed by William Pullinsi, is a Chicago Area Premiere and is sure to win laughs from anyone who’s ever lost – or found – the holiday spirit.
     
     

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Review: Light Opera Work’s "My Fair Lady"

My Fair Lady 

Light Opera Works presents

My Fair Lady
based on George Bernard Shaw‘s Pygmalion
book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe
through Sunday, August 30th (buy tickets)

One of the crown jewels of Broadway’s Golden Age of Musicals, My Fair Lady, from its original Tony Award-winning production, to its best-selling cast album, to its Best Picture-winning film, may well be the best-known and most often produced entry in the musical theatre canon. And it has all of the hallmarks of its genre: the gorgeous melodies, the comic show stoppers, the happy ending… Since 1956, everything about My Fair Lady has been inescapable, as warm and familiar as Higgins’ slippers.

3439Fc Which is precisely what Light Opera Works is serving up at Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium (map) in Evanston. From the musical phrasing to the Cecil Beaton Ascot costumes, everything is as we remember it. There are no surprises – good or bad – and whether you consider that a blessing or a curse will determine how you respond to this My Fair Lady.

The performers have without exception strong voices and portray convincing enough characters, within the somewhat tradition-bound scope of their roles. Natalie Ford‘s Eliza is, by turns, plucky, elegant, and determined, and her “I Could Have Danced All Night” was, as it usually is, a  tour de force. Cary Lovett, as Liza’s father Alfred, and Jeff MacMullen, as erstwhile suitor Freddy, deliver their equally-well-known music hall-style and pining young lover turns with all requisite charm – and, in Mr. MacMullen’s case, with a soaring tenor voice that breathes real life into “On the Street Where You Live.” In a smaller, non-singing role, Jo Ann Minds brings a brittle wit to her portrayal of Higgins’ mother that would make Dame Judi Dench quite proud.

3439Fa Nick Sandys, as Professor Henry Higgins, is bit less successful – if by “success” we mean simply delivering a fascimile of what we’ve seen before. Sandys is younger – significantly younger, it would appear – than Rex Harrison in this part. His aristocratic good looks make Eliza’s attraction to him much easier to see, and throw his relationship with his mother into much sharper focus. Sandys is quicker, and brighter, as Higgins, his mind always at work; it is easy to understand this Professor not seeing the love blooming before his very eyes.

In the end, as the chorus of “I Could Have Danced All Night” swells through the full orchestra’s strings, and Liza goes to fetch Higgins’ slippers, we get from this My Fair Lady exactly what Light Opera Works promised. If you’re in the mood for a faithful recreation of a familiar musical classic, My Fair Lady will be performed through August 30th.

Rating: «««

 

Read more about the show after the fold.

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