2nd Star Productions’ highly entertaining Guys and Dolls is a lively, colorful production about charming guys and their frustrated dolls. Based on characters and a story by Damon Runyon, this classic musical is filled with the gangsters and gamblers of New York’s underground. The music and lyrics are by Frank Loesser with a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.
Director Debbie Barber-Eaton teams up with Musical Director Sandy Melson Griese and Choreographer Andrew Gordon to present a masterful production filled with talented performers. As the show opens, New York City is depicted with a series of store-front flats cleverly designed by Set Designer Jane B. Wingard. Wingard, with the assistance of Set Decoration and Dressing by Rosalie Daelmans, takes the audience to several New York locations (e.g., the Hot Box Club and the Mission Office) and even Havana.
Nicely-Nicely Johnson (James Hulcha), Benny (Nathan Bowen) and Rusty Charlie a.k.a Babyface (Daniel Starnes) kick off the show with “Fugue for Tinhorns” singing about their horses to bet on. Later, add in Nathan Detroit (Brian Mellen) and the fabulous chorus of gamblers and “The Oldest Establishment” has the men looking for a location for their next crap game.
Mellen’s Nathan Detroit, has a hint of Peter Deluise (original 21 Jump Street) in him as he tries to balance between his character’s gambling life and his love life with Miss Adelaide (Jamie Erin Miller). Mellen is convincing as the tough guy with a substantial New York accent and savvy moves, who always seems to get himself into some trouble.
Detroit’s two counterparts, Benny (Nathan Bowen) and Rusty Charlie (Daniel Starnes), display their comedic skills as they fumble to elude Lieutenant Brannigan (Gene Valendo), a crusty, aged officer, who is determined to bust them (Valendo also doubles in the role of Joey Biltmore).
Jamie Erin Miller is perfection as the ditsy and silly Miss Adelaide, Nathan’s girlfriend of 14 years, a fiery redhead with cutesy mannerisms. Miller delivers winning performances with the Hot Box girls in “Take Back Your Mink,” in “Sue Me,” with Mellen, and a magnificent match with Sarah Brown (Erika Miller) in “Marry the Man Today.” In “Adelaide’s Lament,” in a Betty Boop-like voice, Miller bemoans about waiting 14 years to be married. Although Miller provides ample comic-relief, and while her character may be funny, the sassy red-head is wiser than she lets on.
Sergeant Sarah Brown (Erika Miller) is the prim and proper sister of The Save a Soul Mission, and is the opposite of high-roller Sky Masterson (E. Lee Nicol), her love interest. With a captivating and powerful voice, Miller hits all the high notes, as in “If I Were a Bell,” as her character struggles to bring about goodness, yet she is drawn to Masterson’s charm, as they sing “I’ll Know,” who she sees as her moral opposite, an unrepentant sinner.
E. Lee Nicol’s Sky Masterson is very charming, whether it’s a kiss to the hand or a tender touch to the cheek just before a kiss. Nicol sings in an enchanting mid-tone range that grabs at the heartstrings. Masterson may make his income in an odd and perhaps dishonest way, (As he sings in “Luck Be a Lady”) but he too struggles to let go of his wicked ways and have a different life. Together Miller and Nicol show their amazing vocal talents on a sizzling rendition of “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.”
The sweet surprise of the show, for me, is is the performance of David Robinson as Sarah’s grandfather, Arvide Abernathy. He serenades Miller with the song “More I Cannot Wish You” in a voice sweet and full of compassion that just hugs you. Robinson plays Abernathy as a kind man, even to the likes of Sky Masterson, knowing that his granddaughter loves him.
Carole Long plays General Matilda B. Cartwright, Matron of the Regional Mission office and a member of the Marching Band. She is authoritarian but fair-minded and charity-mission oriented. Other band members include: Agatha (Hillary Glass), Calvinette (Alice Goldberg), Martha (Kimberly Hopkins) and Grandpa (David Robinson).
The ensemble singers and dancers add zest throughout the production, especially in support of the lead vocals on such memorable numbers as “Guys and Dolls,” (Finale/Reprise), “Luck Be a Lady,” and James Hulcha’s showstopping number, “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.”
The cast dives into spicy salsa moves steps on “Havana,” a dance treat set in a tropical cantina where Sky takes Sarah. They kick as high as the Rockettes and perform the jazz moves as succinct as the Jets from West Side Story. On another number,“The Crapshooters Dance,” the choreography is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” Overall, the ensemble dancers are bursting with enthusiasm and rarely miss a beat.
The Hot Box Master of Ceremonies (Steve Mangum) is composed as he boldly announces Miss Adelaide and her accompanying dancers, the Hot Box girls: Mimi (Lucy Bobbin), Betty Lee (Debra Kidwell), Penny (Allison Baudoin), Lily (Victoria Brown), Josephine (Emily Morgan), and Ruby (Christa Kronser).
The Gamblers are Big Jule (Steve Streetman), Harry the Horse (Julian Ball), Brandy Bottle Bates (Eric Meadows), Liver Lips Louie (Stevie Magnum), Angie the Ox (Joshua Hampton), Society Max (Tyler White), Scranton Slim (Andrew Gordon), and Li’l Pete (Michael Mates).
The men’s 1950’s suits are a combination of bright colors (e.g. royal blue, purple and maroon) with clashing shirts and ties (e.g., lime green or orange), which works along side the gals dresses in red, lime green, and shimmering turquoise. Costumer Designer, Linda Swann and her Assistant, Hillary Glass, add a layer of brilliance to this production with their stunning costuming and accessories. Lighting and Sound Designer Garrett R. Hyde brings it together with sultry tones of purple and green in Havana, bright yellow tones at the Mission, and mid-tone lighting enhances the mood in the underground scene.
Don’t miss 2nd Star Productions’ delightful production of Guys and Dolls. It’s a summer family treat!
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Guys and Dolls plays through June 25, 2016 at 2nd Star Productions performing at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in White Marsh Park, Route 3 South, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 757-5700 or (301) 832-4819, or purchase them online.