Review: ‘Guys and Dolls’ at Richard Montgomery High School

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Nicknamed “A Musical Fable of Broadway,” Guys and Dolls is a 1950 musical comedy based on the short stories of the legendary Damon Runyon. With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was selected for the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The current production of this popular show at Richard Montgomery High School is every bit as charming and funny as the original. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Emily Krebs Davis, Music Director Ronald Frezzo, Choreographer Sandra Atkinson, and a host of student assistants, the performances are superb.14568115_362051587464227_1975340253566376373_n

The story centers on a variety of Broadway denizens, including gamblers and the missionaries who try to save them. Nathan Detroit (Joey Moore) runs the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York” and due to increased pressure from the police, he cannot find a suitable location for the next game. This is particularly troublesome because Sky Masterson (Noah Montemarano) and other high rollers are in town. The only place left (or so they think) is the Biltmore Garage, but the owner is demanding a $1,000 deposit and Nathan is broke. So, he makes a bet with Sky who is known as a man who will bet on anything. The bet is that Sky cannot take a “doll” of Nathan’s choice to dinner in Havana, and he chooses the leader of the Save-a-Soul Mission, Sarah Brown (Marjorie Long).

Sky fails at first, but when Sarah needs sinners to come to the prayer meetings in order to keep the mission open, Sky promises to deliver them and Sarah agrees to go to Havana. While there, Sarah orders a milkshake, not knowing that Cuban “milkshakes” contain rum. She orders more and, shall we say, “lets her hair down.” She starts to fall for Sky and he for her and they return to New York.

Meanwhile, Nathan’s fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide (Kit Flaherty) performs at the Hot Box nightclub. She is becoming impatient to get married, but she is willing to wait so long as Nathan gives up gambling, and she believes he has. Nathan has lost the bet with Sky and he is still broke, so he hits on a unique idea—having the crap game at the mission.  After all, it’s not being used from midnight to 4:00 am, right?  And that’s just the beginning of the story.

Set Designer Emily Krebs Davis has a large stage to work with and the cast uses every bit of it to its best effect. There is a standard set throughout the production which perfectly typifies Broadway in the 1940s. A few individual set pieces are added and removed for specific scenes in blackout, but the blackouts are very short, so it still gives an effect of seamlessness. Conductor Peter Perry leads a full pit orchestra and provides unobtrusive accompaniment through a variety of musical styles.

However, the performances are the crowning touch. Joey Moore is headturningly handsome as he portrays Nathan Detroit with a natural, seemingly effortless style that is quite delightful. He actually becomes the character in all his varied aspects. He sings “The Oldest Established” as a worshipful hymn to gambling, but is sweet and romantic in “Sue Me” as he tries to convince Adelaide of his love. Moore’s singing voice is rich and smooth with just the right amount of mischief.

Kit Flaherty is truly fantastic as Miss Adelaide. She is perky and quirky and perfect for the role. Flaherty maintains her trademark New York accent whether she is singing or speaking, and she has a fabulous voice. She is a natural comedienne, and she is hilarious in “Adelaide’s Lament” where she believes she has psychosomatic illnesses, brought on by her long, uncertain engagement to Nathan.

Gambler Sky Masterson is portrayed by Noah Montemarano who takes on the role with nuance and style and has a deep, romantic voice. Marjorie Long plays missionary Sarah Brown with an incandescent, professional-quality soprano voice. When together they sing the transcendent ballads, “I’ll Know” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” they earn every bit of emotion that they ask of the audience.

Rachel Herman plays the usually male role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson with panache and vitality delivers the showstopper “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” while Oscar Saywell portrays fellow gambler Benny Southstreet with equal flair. They do a fine job in the title song “Guys and Dolls” and they join Rusty Charlie (Nick Hopwood) for the very clever, but very challenging, “Fugue for Tinhorns.”

The choreography in this show is absolutely spectacular! The precision work in “A Bushel and a Peck” is impeccable. The Latin dancing in “Havana” is sultry and intriguing. The “Crapshooters Dance” is exciting and acrobatic. Rachel Herman and the cast bring down the house with the frenetic “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.”  And those are just a few examples!

Richard Montgomery High School’s superb Guys and Dolls is a sweet story with interesting character studies, great music, and impressive choreography. The performances are first-rate. These guys and dolls know how to put on a show!

Running Time: Approximately three hours, with one 20-minute intermission.

Guys and Dolls plays through November 19, 2016, at Richard Montgomery High School – 250 Richard Montgomery Drive in Rockville, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.

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Paul M. Bessel and Barbara Braswell
The most important thing about Paul M. Bessel is that on January 1, 2011, he married the most wonderful woman in the world, who helped him expand his enjoyment of theater. (The first show he remembers was Fiorello! when he was ten, wearing his first suit.) He and his wife now attend as many musicals, history seminars, and concerts as possible, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 a week, enjoying retirement and the joys of finding love late in life, and going on unconventionally romantic dates such as exhibits of mummies and lectures on parliamentary procedure. They live in Leisure World of Maryland and in addition to going to theaters as often as they can they are active together in community and local political organizations. Barbara Braswell grew up in Newport RI, where Jackie Kennedy once bought her an ice cream cone. She has been interested in theatre her whole life. While pursuing a 33-year career with the U.S. Department of Transportation — helping states build highways, including H-3 in Hawaii, where Barbara helped arrange for a shaman to bless the highway — she attended as many shows as possible on her own, with her late mother, and now with her husband. Now retired, she devotes a great deal of time to theatre, community and local political meetings, and having as much fun as possible.