spreckels guys and dolls 2014Guys and Dolls
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Directed by Gene Abravaya
Music Direction by Janis Wilson
Choreography by Michella Snider

For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company

RUN: October 10-26, 2014
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(October 11, 2014)

Broadway’s golden era is brought to life in Rohnert Park with a twinkle in the eye. Join fast-talking gangsters, upstanding soul saving citizens, and scantily clad chorus girls in a romp through New York in 1950. The play is filled with beloved musical numbers, such as “I’ll Know”, “If I Were a Bell”, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, “Luck Be a Lady” and “Guys and Dolls”, performed by a stellar singing cast. Turn off the baseball game and find a seat at Spreckels, before the run is out.

Tough gangsters with hearts of gold roam the streets of this production, portrayed to perfection. Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Ted Smith) bumbles his way into the audience’s heart, Benny Southstreet (Kyle Stoner) is hilarious as the stringy sidekick trying to make good, Harry the Horse (Benjamin Sweeney Acedo) dominates with the style of a young George Clooney, and Big Jule (David Crone) could have emerged out of a Godfather movie. Their partner in crime, Nathan Detroit (Tim Setzer) manages charm under duress between desperately trying to find a location for the roving craps game, and his lovely but impatient fiancée. The hoodlum antics were the best part of this production, scene stealing with every appearance on stage, much as their cinematic counterparts did in the Humphrey Bogart era of films.

Prancing their way through charming campy dance sequences at the Hot Box, the chorus girls clearly enjoyed their roles, whether kicking their heels up in bright yellow feathers, or tossing pearls aside in “Take Back Your Mink.” Miss Adelaide (Denise Elia-Yen) brought the full Bronx attitude to her role, slurring her way through every emotionally charged confrontation with absolute confidence. Elia-Yen captured the enthusiastic nasal shrillness of New York without becoming irritating, striding through the play in an ever-changing array of lovely vintage dresses.

spreckels-guys-and-dolls-cuba-2014The romantic storyline of Sarah Brown (Stephanie Dietz) and Sky Masterson (Anthony Martinez) prompted by a bet, and ending in true love, was well handled, but not brilliant. Dietz has a beautiful singing voice, and was outstanding in the drunk Sarah scenes in Cuba, but not believable in the upright mission good girl role. She may have been showing that the character was not entirely happy in the mission, and was looking for excitement, but it came across with a bit of a white swan vs black swan conundrum. The entire Cuba sequence was fantastic, with snarky tourist travel, Michella Snider’s dancing, and the comedic bar fight.

Spreckels’ Paradyne Projection System was integrated with particular effect in this production, swiftly changing scenes from blinking neon lights of Broadway to shabby brick buildings, or the lush tropics of Havana. The set design (Eddie Hansen and Elizabeth Bazzano) was kept streamlined, to co-ordinate with the projections, and worked well with the simple yet elegant costume designs of Pamela Enz. I was impressed with the subtle blue accents of the romantic couples that slowly evolved into full blue gowns for the women in the moment when they decided to give their guy a chance.

In the stress of modern life, it is revitalizing to attend a vintage comedy such as Guys and Dolls. If laughter is a medicine, Spreckels has a prescription ready with this scintillating musical. Join the street toughs, saints, and showgirls of Guys and Dolls in Rohnert Park for an evening of thrills, mirth, and an all-around great show.