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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Theatre Review: Music Theatre Louisville "Guys and Dolls"

Peter Holloway and the company of Guys and Dolls
rock the Bomhard Theatre again this week. Photo by David E. Becker
Over the years I see more than a few productions of Guys and Dolls. Chances are Music Theatre Louisville's production is not your first time at the track neither. Nathan Detroit, Nicely Nicely Johnson, Big Jule and Sky Masterson are now iconic American characters in the their own right since they are introduced to the world more than sixty years ago. The thing about this particular staging that I find amazing is that all the talent comes from right here in Louisville. Outside of Broadway itself I don't see anybody do this show better. Sure there is a voice here and a dance step there that is slightly off the mark; but this is the real deal.

Immediately we are struck by the work of the designers: Duper Berry (scenic), Sarah Russell (costumes), Theresa Bagan (lighting) and Robert Dagit (sound) who create the colorful, lively world inhabited by these aforementioned guys and their dolls. Director Peter Holloway, choreographer Megan Bliss, and musical director Jason Seber do an amazing job in creating a show that is sure to please old-timers like me and bring in many new converts as well.
Peter Riopelle as Nathan Detroit and Julie Evins as Miss Adelaide.
Photo by Al Wollerton.

Especially appealing in this especially appealing company is Julie Evins as Miss Adelaide, the long-suffering fiance of one Nathan Detroit, as played by the show's only member of the Actors Equity Union Peter Riopelle. Ms. Evins brings charm and vulnerability to her character and gives us to understand through her interpretation just why she has but up with Nathan these 14 years without benefit of wedding. "Adelaide's Lament," always a bit of comic genius as written by Frank Loesser, has real pathos in Ms. Evins' hands. Right from the start she wins our hearts and we see in her the strength of character needed to reform her erstwhile lover, the quintessential "also ran." Riopelle returns to MTL after a very different star turn as the future President John Adams in last summer's 1776. The success of Guys and Dolls relies heavily on the characterization of Nathan Detroit and Mr. Riopelle throws nothing but sevens and elevens.

The book for Guys and Dolls, written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, comes from two of Runyon's short stories, Blood Pressure and the Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, the latter of which introduces us to the eponymous Salvation Army Sargent patrolling for lost souls among Manhattan's gamblers, hustlers, molls and gangsters. In the MTL production this part is played by the lovely young Sierra Stacy, sporting an impressive voice and more than enough charm to catch the eye of the show's most eligible gambler, Sky Masterson, played by the also young Mason Stewart. Both of these young actors are still in the training process and each has more than enough talent to carry the weight here.

Another young performer who looks like he might be a real contender in years to come is Kyle Braun as Bennie Southstreet. Braun is part of the trio that open the show with one of the best numbers ever written for Broadway. Namely Fugue for Tinhorns. Throughout the production Braun's talents as actor, dancer and singer draw attention to themselves without becoming a distraction--this is an actor to watch. I would lay odds we'll see him in bigger roles down the line.

Music Theatre Louisville's Guys and Dolls continues through Saturday, July 23 in the Kentucky Center's Bomhard Theatre--if you miss it you miss a real evening's entertainment. Get your tickets by calling the Kentucky Center Box Office at 502.584.7777 or online at www.KentuckyCenter.org.

The season finale, Big, based on the Tom Hanks film opens August 5 and runs through the 14. Watch www.Arts-Louisville.com for a preview of that production, coming soon.

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