GUYS AND DOLLS DISAPOINTS AT BERKELEY PLAYHOUSE

 

(Left)Miss Adelaide (c, Sarah Mitchell) and the Hot Box Girls (l-r, Catherine Duval Petru, Simone Olsen-Varela, Louise Barcellos) perform “A Bushel and a Peck” at the Hot Box Club.(Below) In Havana, Missionary Sarah Brown (front l, Angel Burgess) finally lets loose with Sky Masterson (front r, Carmichael J. Blankenship) after accidentally drinking a milkshake laced with rum, as onlookers (back l-r, Louise Barcellos, Lucas Brandt, Melissa Martinez, Matthew McCoy, and Leslie Waggoner) watch with amused interest.

 

GUYS AND DOLLS: musical Comedy. Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser. Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Based on “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure” by Damon Runyon. Directed by Jon Tracy. Musical Direction by Robert Michael. Choreography by Chris Black. Berkeley Playhouse, Julie Morgan Theatre, 2640 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA 510-845-8542×351 or www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. March 23 – April 28, 2013

GUYS AND DOLLS DISAPOINTS AT BERKELEY PLAYHOUSE

Berkeley Playhouse continues its fifth season with an energetic mounting of Guys and Dolls one of the most beloved musical comedies ever to be produced. Although there were problems for the musical that arose between the concept finally reaching Broadway in 1950, none of those behind the scene hitches were detrimental and it played for 1200 performances winning a Tony Award for Best Musical. The shows luster has not diminished in the intervening 63 years and the present production bursts from the Julie Morgan stage and appears to be a labor of love.

Jon Tracy’s style of directing in a physical upbeat manner abounds and he has taken further control of the production by creating the scenic design in partnership with the talented Nina Ball (who happens to be his wife). A bare uncluttered center stage is very appropriate since much of the show consists of dancing to complement the incredible music and lyrics that carry the story line.

That story line was based on two short stories, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure” written by sports columnist Damon Runyon. To refresh your memory the one of the major characters Sarah Brown (Angel Burgess), the leader of the evangelical Save Your Sole Mission situated in the more seedier side of New York City that is populated with rather loveable ‘sinners’ addicted to gambling. Nathan Detroit (Michael Scott Wells) is one of those sinners responsible for setting up illegal dice games for the local denizens. He has been sort of engaged to Miss Adelaide (Sarah Mitchell) a lead singer and dancer in the Hot Box revue.  Enter Sky Masterson (Carmichael J. Blankenship), the suave inveterate gambler who would bet on anything.

The gambling denizens are mostly loveable, with the exception of Chicago hood Big Jule (Terry Rucker), include, to mention a few, Harry the Horse (Matthew McCoy), Angie the Ox (Lucas Brandt) Rusty Charlie (Aejay Mitchell) and the full bodied Nicely Nicely Johnson (Joshua Castro). The rest of the cast comes in and out of the wings without distinction.

One wonders what director Tracy’s concept for this show is and how it should be judged. He allows all the cast to over act with a great deal of mugging playing their roles for laughs. The dialog itself is loaded with laughs and does not require a blitzkrieg of physicality. There are plenty of laughs and intermittent great performances by individual cast members. Sarah Mitchell’s Miss Adelaide was obviously an audience favorite but she had to share accolades with Joshua Castro’s Nicely Nicely Johnson’s belting of “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.”

Even though Blankenship and Burgess have excellent voices the acting is a bit stilted and their loves scenes seem contrived without conveying charisma. The entire show is not aided by the costumes by the usually reliable Abra Berman who has elected to dress Sarah Brown and the evangelists in all white and the Hot Box girls in ludicrous garb.

Despite the perceived onus, Guys and Dolls with its plethora of words and music(“I’ll Know[when my love comes around]”, “A Bushel and a Peck”, “Adelaide’s Lament”, “Havana”, “If I Were a Bell”, “My Time of Day”, “I’ve Never Been In Love Before”, “Take Back Your Mink”, “ More I Cannot Wish You” “Luck be a Lady”, “Sue Me”, ‘Sit Down Your’re Rockin’ the Boat and “Mary the Man Today” comes through as a great musical comedy.  Running time about a bit over two hours including an intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com