GUYS AND DOLLS
By Gary Murray
Starring Ben Crawford, Erin Davie, Steve Rosen and Megan Sikora
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser
Guys and Dolls has had a long and storied history. The 1950’s musical, based on some Damon Runyon stories with elements from his other works, won the Tony for Best Musical and ran 1200 performances. Most know of the weak 1955 film version which starred Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. The latest revival of the show makes its way to the Music Hall at Fair Park as a part of the Dallas Summer Musical season.
The play takes place on the streets of NYC after WWII and before rock & roll. The orchestra didn’t find the right beat at the very beginning but eventually settled down to a working whole. The giant ‘Guys and Dolls” lighted metallic sign pulls apart to see our cast.
The focus begins on three gamblers Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Rusty Charlie and Benny South-street going over the race track forms. This is a nice little comic relief moment. A Salvation Army brass band comes by lead by Sarah (Erin Davie) pushing a sinners meeting on Thursday. She is a part of the do-gooders that want to clean up the streets of Broadway.
The guys are trying to get the location of the local floating crap game run by Nathan Detroit (Steve Rosen). They do one of the highlights of the piece “The Oldest Established” which shows the tight harmonies of the male cast members.
Nathan, in order to keep the game going, needs some cash. He makes a bet with Sky Masterson (Ben Crawford). Sky is such a romantic cad that he believes he can get any woman. Nathan bets Sky that he cannot get Sarah to go to Havana with him.
As Sky attempts to woo the lovely and chaise Sarah, Nathan has his own problems. A bunch of high-rollers are in town and want a game. He has to lie to his girl Adelaide (Megan Sikora) not only about the craps game but about his intentions. They have been engaged for 14 years and she is tired of waiting. She has developed a fantasy world about Nathan to her mother and a sneeze that may just be in her head. Her “Adelaide’s Lament” is a strong running bit of comedy.
With Sky still chasing Sarah, Nathan is still trying to keep the craps game going and to keep Adelaide from finding out. Eventually this leads to a faux bachelor dinner with the lie of Nathan and Adelaide planning to elope.
Sky also convinces Sarah to go to Havana with him. The big dance number “Havana” shows that takes place in Havana both the differences between this young couple and inevitable connections. As Sarah drinks “Dulce de Leche”, Sky really starts to fall for this woman. They seem to find that elusive spark of love.
The end of Act One is the return to NYC and the discovery that the craps game was being held at Sarah’s mission. Believing she has been duped, Sarah slams the relationship shut.
Act II starts with Adelaide performing at her club—the Hot Box—and Nathan not showing up. She finds out that Nathan has been at a 24-hour craps game. This eventually leads to the biggest number of the piece “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”. The show stopping number has been made an American standard by Frank Sinatra. Where the Chairman of the Board makes the song smooth as aged scotch, Ben Crawford pushes his vocal instrument in an almost a manic display of overacting. The song deserves a much more subtle interpretation.
The play ends as one would expect, with the happy couples getting married, all wrapped in a cut little box. Guys and Dolls is still typical Broadway and has the typical feel good ending.
So much has been written about this work and it has been delivered in so many different forms, it becomes harder to write about the newest version. First and foremost, the costumes and sets are just amazing. They capture both the Americana aspects of the work while still being fresh. This is a major production with about two dozen stage center roles. The dancing and movements are fresh as opening night.
Erin Davie has a potent voice with the role of Sarah but it doesn’t blend well with Ben Crawford. The style of how they sing in numbers like “I‘ll Know” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” never jells into oneness. It is more of a clash of the titans and a musical duet.
Megan Sikora just steals the show as Adelaide. This role demands a strong comic presence and Megan delivers every laugh to the maximum degree. The two comic numbers that feature her at the Hot Box—“Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink”—show both her ability to sing and to get laughs. She is the bright, shining performer of the work.
The biggest surprise in the work happens toward the end. All of the gamblers are in the church meeting, confessing their sins. Nicely (Glenn Rainey) just belts out the number “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” as part revival and part Busby Berkley number. This is the true show-stopping number and highlight of the entire work.
This latest telling of Guys and Dolls is a good version of a great work. It runs to a comparably less degree than others but it is head and shoulders above the movie. All in all, it is a nice night out at the theater.
Guys and Dolls plays at the Music Hall at Fair Park July 19 to July 31. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com