Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Guys and Dolls" at Bloomington Civic Theatre

I love a big old-fashioned classic musical* at Bloomington Civic Theatre, and Guys and Dolls is definitely that. This 1955 musical with a well-known score by Frank Loesser is one of the most beloved musicals of the last century. As per usual, it gets fine treatment by BCT, with fantastic choreography and direction by Matthew Michael Ferrell, Anita Ruth's always wonderful pit orchestra, a huge and energetic ensemble, bright and beautiful period costumes, and fine performances by the leads. If you're a lover of classic musicals of the '50s - this is it.

Guys and Dolls centers around the underground gambling business in NYC and a mission trying to save the sinners. Nathan Detroit runs the big craps game in town and is always looking for a place to hold it, while trying to hide it from Adelaide, Hot Box dancer and his fiance of 14 years. To get the money to secure a location for the game, Nathan bets big-time gambler Sky Masterson that he cannot convince pious mission worker Sarah to go to Havana with him. Sky wins the bet, but it's not quite that simple. To win Sarah's heart, he bets against the guys' souls to get them to come to a meeting and save the mission. And everyone lives happily ever after.

Highlights of the show include:
  • The music. The score includes such favorites as "Bushel and a Peck," "Adelaide's Lament," "If I Were a Bell," "Luck Be a Lady," and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," all played and sung beautifully be the orchestra and cast.
  • Michael Matthew Ferrell's choreography. The group numbers are so much fun to watch, from the opening number, creating perfect tableaux of city life, to the Hot Box Girls performances, to the smooth swinging Havana scene, to the crapshooters sharp dance. And these guys and dolls can dance.
  • Ed Gleeman's costumes. Men in rainbow-colored suits, two-toned shoes, and hats used as props in dances - what's not to love about that? The women look pretty smashing too.
  • Bill Rolon and Rachel Weber. Perfectly cast as Nathan and Adelaide, they absolutely sparkle and crackle on stage, individually (Nathan working the guys, Adelaide's charming lament and leading the Hot Box Girls) but especially together ("Sue Me" is a highlight, funny and tender). They even look the part; somehow the height difference (in Adelaide's favor) only makes them more perfect for each other. This is a relationship you can understand and root for, despite the overly long engagement.
  • The voices of Holli Richgels and Joshua Paul Smith. I always find the Sky/Sarah romance less appealing than Nathan/Adelaide, but these two sound lovely together.
  • The charming trio of Lamar Jefferson, A.J. Longabaugh, and Andrew Newman. They're almost like narrators of the show, singing the opening number and the title song in enthusiastic harmony. And Lamar is pitch perfect as Nicely-Nicely, singing the crowd-pleasing "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
This faithful and fun production of a beloved musical theater classic continues through September 14. You might want to get your tickets sooner rather than later, as this one is sure to be popular (Goldstar tickets are currently sold out but check back in case more dates are added).

*As much as Guys and Dolls is a quintessential example of a classic piece of musical theater that BCT does well, their next show is a great example of a new and modern rock musical, Next to Normal. I'm excited to see BCT step out of their comfort zone a bit with this devastatingly brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning musical that features a small six-person cast and typically onstage rock band rather than a traditional pit orchestra.