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A CurtainUp LA Review
Guys and Dolls
by Laura Hitchcock

Composer Frank Loesser and book writers Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows would do the Lindy in their graves if they could see this polished 50th Anniversary revival of their risqué adaptation of Damon Runyon's New York tales. The musical catches Runyon's caricatures of gamblers, chorines and Salvation Army workers and explodes them with dialogue that could fit cartoons written in big balloons coming out of the characters' mouths. The story line is equally bright and simple, with gamblers like bumbling hustler Nathan Detroit and charismatic Sky Masterson playing their games and losing their hearts to Miss Adelaide, queen chorine of The Hot Box, and Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Save-A-Soul Mission, respectively.

This production has been re-designed to highlight the talents of its name performer, dancer Maurice Hines who catches Nathan's go-along-to-get-along ingratiation but lacks his addictive hustling desperation. "Ever-Lovin' Adelaide", the ballad written for Frank Sinatra's movie version, has been deleted in favor of extended choreography by Ken Roberson. Almost every scene is highlighted by a dancer or two twirling around the newsstand. Captained by Hines' deft footwork, the show is constantly in motion.

Both choreography and Charles Randolph-Wright's direction faithfully recreate the 1940s, which is a mixed blessing. This is not the sort of show that should be updated or done in a Greek toga. It's a New York minute, imbedded in the mythology of early 20th century Manhattan and written about gamblers who love to live on the edge and chorines who love to share their zest for musical comedy and the opposite sex. However, the stop-timing in the direction, though typical of the period, slows the show down, in particular the dialogue scenes.

Vocally the show works well and, in some cases, outstandingly. Alexandra Foucard is her very own Miss Adelaide and a real belter to boot. She's dropped the Brooklyn accent that traditionally rhymes poils with goils and infused her character with an effortless high-caliber sexiness. You can see why Nathan is overwhelmed and enchanted.

Clent Bowers, one of the Three Mo' Tenors, is the nicest thing that ever happened to Nicely-Nicely Johnson. He opens the show with "Fugue for a Tinhorn" and nearly stops it with "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat." Real-life husband and wife Diane and Brian Sutherland are well cast as Sky and Sarah. Both have big voices; Diane's is near-operatic.

Paul Tazewell's costumes are deliciously 1940s and he has a particularly glorious time with The Hot Box girls, crowning their "Bushel & A Peck" number with hats made of carrots. Norbert Kolb's deft, simple and flexible sets for this 50-city National Tour alternate the neon lights of Broadway, complete with Walgreen's, with raunchy Cuban cabarets suggested best by Michael Gilliam's crimson lighting design.

In a world of unreliable pleasures, the care, talent and delight spent on polishing this version of the Big Apple demonstrate that this 50-year-old is still something you want to take home from the theatre with you.

Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser. Book: Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows
Director: Charles Randolph-Wright
Cast: Clent Bowers (Nicely-Nicely Johnson), Darin DePaul (Benny Southstreet), Michael W. Howell (Rusty Charlie, Joey Biltmore), Cathy Carey (Agatha), Tad Ingram (Arvide Abernathy), Diane Sutherland (Sgt. Sarah Brown), Carlos Lopez (Harry the Horse), Paul DePasquale (Lt. Brannigan), Maurice Hines (Nathan Detroit), Ryan Blanchard (Angie the Ox, Mr.C.), Alexandra Foucard (Miss Adelaide), Brian Sutherland (Sky Masterson), Liza Shaller (Mimi). Donna Migliaccio (General Matilda B. Cartwright), Curt M. Buckler (Big Jule), P.J. Terranova (Drunk)(br> Musical Direction: Eric Barnes.
Scenic Design: Herbert Gold
Lighting Design: Michael Gilliam
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Sound Design: Christopher "Kit" Bond
Choreographer: Ken Roberson
Running Time: Two hours, 40 minutes. One intermission
The Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Avenue, Beverly Hills, (213) 365-3500
April 17-28, 2002
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on April 17.
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