REVIEW: “GUYS AND DOLLS” AT POST PLAYHOUSE “A TRIUMPH!”

Posted 4 months ago

By John Axtell

1. (L-R)  Sky Masterson (Don Denton) is tricked into a thousand-dollar wager involving taking a “doll” to Havana.  Nicely Nicely Johnson (Tommy Wallace—front) and Benny Southwest (Stephen Beard—rear) react strongly to the bet when they discover the “doll” is Mission evangelist Sarah Brown (Paige Salter).

1. (L-R) Sky Masterson (Don Denton) is tricked into a thousand-dollar wager involving taking a “doll” to Havana. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Tommy Wallace—front) and Benny Southwest (Stephen Beard—rear) react strongly to the bet when they discover the “doll” is Mission evangelist Sarah Brown (Paige Salter).

Guys and Dolls at Post Playhouse — Review by Chelsea Cole   Photos by Jeffery P Gilmore

Post Playhouse artistic director Tom Ossowski hit the mark this season with Guys and Dolls. A hot prospect right out of the starting gate, this venerable musical comedy galloped to the finish line. A thoroughbred through and through…you’ll find Guys and Dolls in the Winner’s Circle.

No handicapping necessary, from the hard-core song-and-dance ensemble to the fabulous assortment of leads and supporting characters. But if I had to make the call—and I guess I do—I’d say it’s Janet McWilliams’ show—by a neck to a nose.

As Adelaide—who suffers from a chronic cough and a fourteen-year-long engagement to gambler Nathan Detroit—McWilliams couldn’t be more delightful. She is a natural in the broadly New York-accented role originally tailored for star Vivian Blaine when songwriter Frank Loesser found her unsuitable for the ingénue lead. McWilliams fairly trills through the intricate lyrics of Adelaide’s Lament, and you can’t help but root for this underdog in romance.

The object of her affection—played by a wonderfully smarmy Sean Barrett—overcomes the character flaws of being a down-on-his-luck, two-bit gambler whose “longest-running permanent floating crap game” permanently raises Adelaide’s hackles. Barrett makes the quirky Nathan endearing—no mean feat. But Barrett (who also plays Max in The Sound of Music) excels at making questionable characters not only human but fun.

4. On the 14th anniversary of their engagement, Adelaide (Janet McWilliams) surprises Nathan (Sean Barrett) with a belt, which is better than the nothing he can afford for her.

4. On the 14th anniversary of their engagement, Adelaide (Janet McWilliams) surprises Nathan (Sean Barrett) with a belt, which is better than the nothing he can afford for her.

True love also embraces the even more unlikely coupling of high-roller Sky Masterson and mission evangelist Sarah Brown. Their highly divergent paths collide when Sky gets roped into a thousand-dollar bet that says he can’t get her to fall for him.

Of course he can and she does, providing us with the beautifully romantic duets I’ll Know When My Love Comes Along and I’ve Never Been in Love Before. Don Denton is forceful as the good guy gone astray who, through unexpected grace, finds his way.

Paige Salter’s Sarah Brown is his strong and determined match, from angry first meeting through inebriated confession of love (If I Were a Bell) to satisfying denouement.

The show—with its multifaceted lyrics and clever counterpoint—is so chockfull of talent that it never ceases to entertain

Second banana Tommy Wallace (aptly zoot-suited in neon yellow) draws the eye and applause from first pratfall through the rousing showstopper Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat. Wallace—also choreographer for the show—lithely manages to be everywhere from on the floor to on top of the mission desk. His boundless energy envelops street thug Nicely Nicely Johnson, supported by a merry band of crapshooters in search of a game.

2. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Tommy Wallace—L) and Benny South West (Stephen Beard—R) note the changes in a guy when he falls for a “doll”

2. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Tommy Wallace—L) and Benny South West (Stephen Beard—R) note the changes in a guy when he falls for a “doll”

Chadron resident and musical theatre student Michael Kruse is Rusty Charlie, holding his own with the likes of a gimp-inspired Dan Denton, whose Harry the Horse is reminiscent of a young Dick Van Dyke. Stephen Beard’s Benny Southwest adds wide-eyed zest in tandem with Wallace to the title song Guys and Dolls. San Cleary surprises as a booming Big Julie, packing heat for emphasis. So—just sayin’—I’d step back if he loomed onto my path.

Andreas Robledo does double—triple..more?—duty as Lt. Brannigan (complete with a respectable Irish brogue), zoot-suit dancer (check out the red fedora), and a Havana waiter (with an engaging latino gait).

Keeping up with the men, the Hot Box cuties (their A Bushel and A Peck routine is deliciously tacky) also appear as red-bonneted symbols of decorum in the mission band (Britte Steele, Annabelle Fox, and Samantha Matthews). Not to be missed in the band is Crawford’s own Marge Rotherham, beating an enormous drum with spirit and pluck.

Completing the mission distaff side is Jorie Janeway as General Matilda B. Cartwright, a stern disciplinarian who abandons propriety in a hallelujah musical moment.

Alliance resident and Post Playhouse board president Wally Seiler delivers on the quiet tender More I Cannot Wish You, advising a heart-torn Sarah.

Music director John Callahan adeptly leads the company through Loesser’s complicated score, a fast-paced route of wit and counterpoint. John Millerd maintains an acute clarity of sound form soaring high notes to the cacophony of a street rumble and the exultation of a revival meeting.

3. As her grandfather and mentor Arvide Abernathy, Alliance resident and Post Playhouse board president Wally Seiler comforts a love-weary Sarah Brown (Paige Salter)

3. As her grandfather and mentor Arvide Abernathy, Alliance resident and Post Playhouse board president Wally Seiler comforts a love-weary Sarah Brown (Paige Salter)

With such vast, fast mood changes, Donald James Fox’s lighting sets the tone for romance, physical comedy, and an action-packed cop chase; and Pheobe Boynton’s costumes add a brightness to the dark corners of New York and Havana. Mark DeLancey’s set puts you in the moment with flavorful Big Apple accents from automat sign to run-down newsstand.

Starting with the first note of the overture and springing cheerily through fun schtick, over-the-top reactions, up tempo ensemble numbers, and sweet—not saccharine—love songs, Guys and Dolls brings it home…a triumph!

A one-time resident of New York’s upper west and upper east sides, theatre critic Chelsea Cole has worked the off and off-off Broadway circuits on the lower east side and Broadway shoulder. She once ran tech for Loesser’s GreenWillow in a posthumous bid for the show’s return to the Great White Way.

Guys and Dolls

Director: Tom Ossowski

Music Director: John Callahan

Choreographer: Tommy Wallace

Set Design: Mark DeLancey

Costume Design: Pheobe Boynton

Lighting Design: Donald James Fox

Sound Designer: John Millerd

Stage Manager: Ken Phillips

For Tickets: Call the Box Office at (308) 665-1976  or buy on line at www.postplayhouse.com .