Psst! Looking for a sure bet? Put your money on the Old Globe’s rollicking, toe-tapping revival of “Guys and Dolls.”
In this musical fable of depression-era Broadway, con man Nathan Detroit (J. Bernard Calloway) has two loves: The oldest established floating crap game and his fiancé of 14 years, exotic dancer Miss Adelaide (Veronica J. Kuehn), who wants nothing more than for her man to go straight and settle down in a little house with a picket fence. But the roll of the dice consistently wins out over the walk down the aisle. When he isn’t ducking wedding bells, Nathan is giving the slip to beat cop Lieutenant Brannigan (Ed Hollingsworth) who enjoys nothing more than breaking up the game.
Nathan’s pockets contain only lint, but he’d have it made in the shade if only he had a cool grand to rent Joey Biltmore’s (Richard Gatta) garage for the night’s action. The fellas – Benny Southstreet (Matt Bauman), Society Max (Giovanni Bonaventura), The Greek (Juan Caballer), Harry the Horse (Lance Carter) and Big Jule (Steve Greenstein) – are all counting on it.
This sets in motion a series of high-stakes wagers between Nathan and habitual gambler Sky Masterson (Terence Archie); between Sky and the righteous head of the Save-a-Soul Mission Sarah Brown (Audrey Cardwell), in a bind of her own trying to save her failing operation; and an all-or-nothing roll of the dice upon which several fates hang.
Propelling the story merrily along are some of best show tunes ever penned including “Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” which remains a show stopper thanks to the exuberant Todd Buonopane as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Bravo!
Veronica J. Kuehn in the role of Miss Adelaide is a marvel: Somehow she manages to talk in a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard, high-pitch voice – the likes of which hasn’t been heard since the character Lina Lamont in “Singing in the Rain” – and a moment later sings like a nightingale. Audrey Cardwell (as Sarah Brown) also has remarkable pipes. The opportunity to hear Kuehn and Cardwell in duet on “Marry the Man Today” is a joy.
Scenic designer Lee Savage and lighting designer Paul Miller offers up the hustle and bustle of Time Square through a visually packed stage of arc lights and blinking neon with era-appropriate newspaper stand and phone booth adding a nice touch. A series of drop-down elements convincingly move the action to a Havana nightclub, the Hot Box burlesque theater where Miss Adelaide performs, the Save-A-Soul Mission, and astonishingly to the New York sewer system.
Costume designer Brian C. Hemesath has stitched up more plaid and pinstripes then has ever been seen in one spot. Missionary uniforms are tightly buttoned up except for straight-lace Sarah’s straight skirt which suddenly reveals a slight flare that allows her to take over the dance floor in Havana after one too many rum-spiked drinks.
Another treat is “The Crapshooters Dance,” an extended number that will have you regretting you didn’t become a hoofer. This courtesy of gifted director/choreographer Josh Rhodes, whose other Old Globe triumphs are Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (direction) and “Bright Star” (choreography). Musical director Sinai Tabak has a hot time in the old town providing the show’s musical accompaniment.