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"Guys and Dolls", Back on Broadway, at the Nederlander Theatre
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"Guys and Dolls", Back on Broadway, at the Nederlander Theatre

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Nederlander Theatre
Under the Direction of
James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander
Presents:
Guys and Dolls
A Musical Fable of Broadway
Based on a Story and Characters by Damon Runyon
(Frank Loesser Web Page)
212.307.4100

At the
Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st Street
New York, NY

Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Starring:
Oliver Platt, Craig Bierko,
Lauren Graham, Kate Jennings Grant

With:
Tituss Burgess, Jim Ortlieb, Glenn Fleshler,
Steve Rosen, Adam LeFevre, Mary Testa
And
An Ensemble of Actors/Singers/Dancers

Directed by Des McAnuff
Choreography: Sergio Trujillo
Musical Direction, Vocal Arrangements,
And Incidental Music: Ted Sperling

Scenery Design: Robert Brill
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Video Design: Dustin O’Neill
Hair & Wig Design: Charles LaPointe
Fight Director: Steve Rankin
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Dance Arrangements: James Lynn Abbott
Conductor: Jeffrey Klitz
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Technical Supervision: Don S. Gilmore
Production Stage Manager: Frank Hartenstein
Press Representative: Barlow-Hartman
General Management: Alchemy Production Group/
Carl Pasbjerg & Frank Scardino
Assoc. Producers: Jill Lenhart and Peter Godfrey
Exec. Producer: David Lazar
Marketing Direction: Type A Marketing / Anne Rippey



Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 19, 2009


The new production of Guys and Dolls, à la 1930’s Damon Runyon, has a larger-than-imagined media-imbued stage set, almost a monster Erector Set, with Times Square in neon, towering train elevator supports, River projections, sidewalks expansive enough for rolling dice, a Salvation Army retreat warm enough for a meeting packed with sinners, and even a Club in Havana. It also has some of the best known Broadway songs, like “If I Were a Bell”, “Sue Me”, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”, and the title song, sung twice, that closes the show. The dance routines generate energy in familiar refrains and rhythms. This is all good news for tourists, who visit New York with families, to see a show they remember and walk out humming. This is not good news for Broadway aficionados, looking for charisma, magnetizing moments, or great voices singing “My Time of Day” or “Luck Be a Lady”. In fact, I have not even mentioned the stars, no Sinatra or Brando here, but the out-of-town crowd seemed to love Oliver Platt, Craig Bierko, Lauren Graham, Kate Jennings Grant, and this cast of about 30 dancers, singers, actors.

Oliver Platt, as Nathan Detroit, who inhabits New York’s 1930’s crap games, was perfectly cast here. His silly, bumbling, gangster-like affect wowed the crowd. Everyone rooted for him to slip the ring onto Adelaide’s finger. He had a vulnerable, lovable, quality that needed over-stylizing and over-acting to fit this stage. The object of his affection, Lauren Graham, as Adelaide, polished up “Adelaide’s Lament”, with nasal twang and her own vulnerable neediness, without abandoning her sexy, sassy persona. Both Mr. Platt and Ms. Graham sang with muster and personality. However, Kate Jennings Grant, as Sarah Brown, the Salvation Army missionary, who suddenly takes a trip to Cuba to drink and dance with Sky Masterson (Craig Bierko), just could not project upstairs, and her vocals rang flat. Worse, Mr. Bierko seemed a lackluster Sky Masterson, not one I’d cross the border with, whose vocals were off-key and off-mood. His “My Time of Day” was performed with bland dramatics and blander musicality. His “Luck Be a Lady” song and dance number fared better, thanks to Sergio Trujillo and James Lynn Abbott’s choreographic design.

Other members of the Cast, who did fill the theatre and then some, were Mary Testa, as General Cartwright, the over-the-top, formidable Salvation Army General, who sings and acts with delightful pomposity of operatic proportions, as well as Tituss Burgess, as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, whose bravura “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” brought the house down, close to the finale. Other ensemble members who caught my eye were Glenn Fleshler as Big Jule, John Selya as Scranton Slim, Joseph Medeiros as The Greek, and Raymond Del Barrio as Damon Runyon, himself, typing this storied script. The ensemble names were eminently adorable, on their own, like “Angie the Ox”, “Liver Lips Louie”, and “Brandy Bottle Bates”.

In my front balcony position, best vantage to view the oversized sets that dazzle and flash, I was able to glean the most from what sometimes seemed a live movie of a live movie of a fabulous show. Although the largesse of the production created distance, with huge tech-sets as a quasi-metal moat, the families in the balcony (a good part of tonight’s Spring Break crowd) were riveted, smiling, applauding, and obviously thrilled. In fact, my guest loved the show as well. What came through were Robert Brill’s iconic sets, Paul Tazewell’s plaid and polka-dot cartoonish costumes, Howell Binkley’s detailed lighting, Steve Canyon Kennedy’s very audible, never overdone sound design, and Dustin O’Neill’s simple, charming videos that enhance the lyrics and action. In addition, Bruce Coughlin’s orchestrations of Frank Loesser’s memorable melodies were especially effective with Sergio Trujillo’s crap-shooting ballet, buoyant athletic antics, and Cuban Rhumbas, replete with shimmying, spinning, high-kicking electricity.

Kudos to Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, Abe Burrows, and Damon Runyon. Guys and Dolls will return, but, hopefully, with more immediacy, intimacy, and charisma. Until then, we can rent the film.



Oliver Platt, Lauren Graham,
Craig Bierko, Kate Jennings Grant
in "Guys and Dolls"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



The Company in "Guys and Dolls"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



Craig Bierko and Oliver Platt
in "Guys and Dolls"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


Craig Bierko and Company
in "Guys and Dolls"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


Oliver Platt and the Company
in "Guys and Dolls"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


Kate Jennings Grant and Lauren Graham
in "Guys and Dolls"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg





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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net