“Guys and Dolls” is an end-of-summer delight

“Guys and Dolls” is an end-of-summer delight

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen Guys and Dolls; it’s part of the cultural zeitgeist, and unlike other older musicals, it has aged relatively well. (The fact that there was a film musical featuring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando doesn’t hurt, either.) The show is a safe bet for theaters – it’s going to bring in audiences due to name recognition and it’s also a fun night at the theater. The Theater Barn’s production is steady, straightforward and quite good – a throwback to the old-fashioned musicals we remember fondly.

In early 1950s New York City, Nathan Detroit (Andrew Pace) is looking for somewhere to hold his time-honored “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York” – the police are onto him and the only location available needs a $1,000 down payment. Nathan’s fiancée, Adelaide (Katie Luke), a dancing girl, wants nothing more than for Nathan to quit gambling, settle down and marry her, and threatens to leave him if he doesn’t follow through. An old gambling buddy, Sky Masterson (Nick Abbott) comes to town, and Nathan bets him the $1,000 that Sky can’t get Sarah Brown (Katherine McLellan), an uptight street missionary, to go to dinner in Cuba with him. Sky and Sarah find they have a connection while Nathan has to decide what’s more important, gambling or the woman he loves.

The four leads in the show are all very strong. Pace makes for an endearing Nathan Detroit; you can see his love for Adelaide and his comic timing is impeccable. Luke is spot-on as Adelaide; I’ve seen the show more times than I can count, and I think hers is my favorite interpretation of the character. She is strong with a hint of fragility, needy without being whiny, and her voice is spectacular. Abbott has the stage presence of a ‘40s film star – handsome, moody and charming, with a rich voice that surprised me. McLellan plays both her serious and comedic scenes well and her voice is perfect for Sarah. She and Abbott have serious chemistry and make for a great couple onstage.

Paul Urriola, as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, is the comic relief throughout and his “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” in Act II is one of the best songs in the entire production; his energy and the choreography make for a fantastic spectacle. The choreography in Adelaide’s Hot Box numbers is spot-on, as well – titillating and cute without being raunchy. The only criticism I’d lodge would be with Sky Vogel’s Big Jule – the show, as written, is somewhat cartoonish, but his characterization is so over-the-top it’s cringeworthy.

I was worried going in that the Theatre Barn’s stage might be too small for the production – there are some large numbers in the show – but somehow director/choreographer Kelly Shook managed to never make anything look crowded.

The show is enjoyable, beautiful to watch and sounds great – definitely something to treat yourself to at the end of the summer theater season.

“Guys and Dolls,” The Theater Barn, 654 State Route 20, New Lebanon, through September 3, $27-$25, Run time: 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

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