Guys and Dolls Is No Gamble – A Must See in Costa Mesa

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The classic Broadway comedy GUYS AND DOLLS has made its way to Costa Mesa!  It’s a short run only playing until Sunday the 19th, so you better find your way there quick to enjoy it’s smile-inducing fun!  This popular musical has been lighting up stages for nearly 65 years, and for good reason.

GUYS AND DOLLS originated on Broadway in 1950 based on short stories written about gangsters and gamblers in the 20s and 30s and highlights the underground craps rings throughout Runyonland, “New York City”, of the 1940s in a comic-book fashion.

Since its debut there have been many revivals through the decades, some not-so-great, and some highly rewarded like the run from the early 90s starring Nathan Lane.  There is of course also the 1955 film of the same name starring FRANK SINATRA, MARLO BRANDO, and JEAN SIMMONS.  This Big League Productions fortunately remains true to the original music and telling of the story that has delighted audiences for so many years past.

Make no mistake, GUYS AND DOLLS is a fun high-energy classic-styled musical that leaves no room for anything out of the ordinary.  I mean this with no sense of negativity as this is a musical style that many first fell in love with as a child.  Here we are treated to an exciting night at theatre with upbeat music, lively dancers and great comedy.  This won’t be one of those shows that it is too eccentric or odd, just good ole entertainment.

(Guys and Dolls – Luck Be A Lady)

Written by DAMON RUNYON and music from FRANK LOESSER (How to Success in Business Without Really Trying), GUYS AND DOLLS is the telling of two romances of two of unlikeliest of couples that through many obstacles find their love for one another.  Okay, that might be the normal synopsis of this musical, but really, that’s the nitty-gritty.

Nathan Detroit, a man afraid of commitment and the organizer of “The Oldest Establishment”, bets a fellow well-known gambler Sky Masterson into what he is sure is guaranteed win in order to get enough money to continue his floating crap game unbeknownst to his fiance of 14-years, Adelaide.

Sorry for the lengthy sentence, but I love that I am able to actually describe this show so easily.  This is of no fault to the show, just refreshing to see an easy to follow show for this simpleton, me.

I was concerned at the beginning that the musical would remain stale as recent revivals have been named, fortunately this production continues to be exciting and capturing till the end.  That isn’t to say that the beginning didn’t feel a little rocky, but as soon Sky and missionary Sarah’s song “I’ll Know” began, I was enthralled.

Some of these characters are so colorful and a bit over-the-top that it was hard for me to enjoy them at the beginning, but they began to fit the show and felt like they belonged quickly.  We are first introduced to gambler and Nathan’s right-hand man Nicely-Nicely Johnson, played well by TODD BERKICH, except at first I was worried all the gambling “New-Yorkers” would be played this way.  Those familiar with the musical probably wont find this to be so, however I figured I should pre-warn the others. Case and point: they are not.

There are few characters that I felt similar to toward the beginning, but these cartoonish like characterizations are quickly forgotten as the setting of the musical continues.  Sky Masterson stole the show for me with his cool-guy Italian immigrant vibe.  MATTHEW J. TAYLOR plays the character well and believable.  Good to see as if anyone misses their mark, it could really disrupt the storytelling in GUYS AND DOLLS.  His lust for the “Bible-thumping” missionary Sarah Brown plays off well later and helps for his character transformation. Sarah is played by KAYLEEN SEIDL, an absolute delight that wins the vocal talent award for the night.  Their chemistry plays true and was the highlight of the show for me.

GUYS AND DOLLS though is truly and ensemble cast show with many grimy gamblers, that can dance the night away, and female dancers from Adelaide’s nightclub The Hot Box.  Both of these groups have fantastic high octane dance numbers. Without these numerous Dick Tracey like characterizations, the show would only be shell of itself.

Something to enjoy from this production that we don’t see much in new musicals is the large amount of dialogue.  However, there are several instances where it felt the show was slowing and needed a pick me up, but sure enough, it would come.  This is a longer show that took us nearly 3 hours until we were out of the theatre, but that’s just a heads up. This production flows well and builds with energy up until the final curtain call.

It’s timeless entertainment at its best, but think twice before bringing the youngins.  There are still several sexy numbers and maybe some disconnect for them, but really nothing that shouts “nonfamily-friendly”, except for maybe some awkward moments with your young teenage son sitting by your side staring at the beautiful bosoms on stage.

With lively dancing, a variety of music including the fan favorite “Luck Be A Lady”, some laughter, and all the ingredients that make a musical great, this production is a special night at the theatre.  For those that have never seen GUYS AND DOLLS, I feel like it’s a right of passage for all musical lovers. I am more than pleased that I finally got to see such a well-received classic.

GUYS AND DOLLS is now playing through April 19th at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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