Luck be a lady if you get tickets to see the Tantallon Community Players production of Guys & Dolls. This little community theatre brings you all the glitz and glory to do Frank Loesser justice on the stage as they bring to life a crap-shooting, hot-box-dancing, soul-saving good time. Directed by Hans Bachmann with musical direction by Charla Rowe – this production will have you rolling your lucky dice in hopes of getting in on Nathan’s big game.
There’s only one fatal flaw to this otherwise spectacular show, and that’s the choreography or lack thereof. Choreographer Rikki Howie doesn’t really give us all the spectacle you’d expect in such a big production. The hot box dancers often strike freeze frame posses during “Take Back Your Mink” and “Bushel and a Peck” rather than dancing as one might expect characters called ‘hot box dancers’ to do. The same with the crap shooters in their big dance number of “Luck Be A Lady.” They stand around pulling poses and wiggling their arms rather than any accomplished dance routines. And the chaos that orchestrates itself on stage at the beginning of the show – after the overture but before the opening number – feels stifled and superfluous; an attempt at dancing without the actual dancing.
If you can overlook the lack of dancing and the fact that the live orchestra gave the performers a run for their money (as it was either desperately behind or ahead of the singers and often loudly off-key) this show has all the classic characters you remember, well crafted and seasoned to their roles.
Some of the most surprisingly talented voices come from the supporting cast. Uncle Arvide Abernathy (Art Greene) for example, is a mild character who says very little but when he sings “More I Could Not Wish You” there is a deep robust sound that echoes around the auditorium with a sweet pleasant melody. And the powerhouse is tucked away in Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stephen Yednock) who probably didn’t need the microphone when singing because he was belting to bring the house down. Yednock leads a revival that is beyond powerful with “Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat” and boasts a strong lead in the trio “Fugue For The Tinhorns.” Actors like Greene and Yednock really amaze and surprise the audience with their stellar vocal quality and natural showmanship.
The doll is certainly in the house with Adelaide (Leslie Ann Kekuewa) as she finds that high-pitched nasally sound that reminds us of a broad from that era. Kekuewa really digs deep into her characters psychosis during “Adelaide’s Lament” dissecting each comical line of that song with a perplexed expression upon her face, making this number a riot, especially when she sneezes. Kekuewa’s shining moment is during “Sue Me” where she uses that squeaky nasally sound to her advantage, verbally beating the crap out of Nathan. She’s fun to watch as she gets over excited about the prospect of marriage and her innocent little confessions of all her lies to her mother are beyond hilarious.
Playing opposite of this hot box doll is good old reliable Nathan Detroit (Rich Amada). He’s slick, he’s smooth, and he has the perfect New York accent. Amada embodies all the qualities of a gambler who’s trying to run both games; the crap game and the game of love. While he doesn’t get much solo singing, you can hear his voice in a crowd, and his extremely expressive use of his whole body for things like surprise, disgust and anger are truly remarkable. And when he does get a solo in “Sue Me” Amada’s voice is sweet and rich and pure, matching a beautiful harmony with Adelaide.
The focal point of the show is all about the big crap shoot, and there’s no bigger a gamble then when Sky Masterson (Zadoc-Lee Kekuewa) takes a shot at love and romance with mission doll Sarah Brown (Valerie Holt). Zadoc-Lee Kekuewa is a commanding presence when he walks onto the stage; from the moment he steps out in his very spiffy suit you know who he is. His attitude is slick, his movements are smooth and he eases his way through the show in a way that any gambling man of New York City in that era would be proud of. He has several impressive solo numbers, “My Time of Day” and “Luck Be A Lady” being two of the most notable. When he’s rolling through “Luck Be A Lady” his voice is strong and loaded with conviction, even if he is doubtful and hopeful at the same time. His interactions with Holt are truly comical as they chase each other around the stage in a series of hard-to-get flirtations throughout the production.
Holt has a soft and fluttery voice as a mission doll. When she sings “I’ll Know” you hear her wavering glissando sound easily and can see the uncertainty mingled with hope and romance in her eyes. Her most stand out number, however, is when she becomes drunk in Havana and sings “If I Were A Bell.” Holt belts out this song with gusto, loud and proud to be expressing her feelings whilst intoxicated and gives a performance worth a standing ovation in this number.
Don’t sit down, even if you are rocking the boat, just go get tickets to Guys & Dolls. it’s the best bet you’ll make this month.
Guys & Dolls plays through June 10, 2012 through the Tantallon Community Players – at the Harmony Hall Regional Center – 10701 Livingston Road in Fort Washington, MD. For tickets, call (301) 203-6070, or purchase them online.