In Review: ‘Guys, Dolls’ promises a production of fun, falling in love
By Rachelle Hughes
Iron County Today
I love a good opening number and Utah Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Guys and Dolls,” brought an immediate grin with its big city lights stage set and an energetic and varied New York City cast traipsing, skipping, and dancing across the Randall L. Jones Theatre stage.
This story of gamblers, missionaries and showgirls is one of my favorite musical comedies — favorite songs, favorite stories and favorite characters. I had high expectations.
Fortunately, the opening number promises a fun and playful musical. Like many of the Festival’s plays this season, this musical is all about falling in love. While the two love stories in this play that follow Sky Masterson (Brian Vaughn) and Sarah Brown (Alexandra Zorn) and Nathan Detroit (Quinn Mattfeld) and Miss Adelaide (Melinda Parrett) both end in wedded bliss, the journey of their love stories are completely different from each other and any other love story in the Festival this season. As Sky says, love is all about “chemistry” and director Peter Rothstein and his cast make sure we get chemistry.
Vaughn’s carefree Sky Masterson doth protest too much against true love but when Skyconvinces Sarah Brown (the resident missionary against sinful living) to fly off to Havana with him for dinner in order to win a bet against Nathan Detroit he falls hard and fast.
Nathan Detroit is in love and has been for 14 years with the star performer of a Hot Box show and eventually he is going to get married.
Smooth talking Nathan Detroit and Sky have their work cut out for them as they navigate the gambling world of New York and the choppy waters of love. Their love lives may be their biggest gamble of all.
Mattfeld as Nathan Detroit is lovable (no wonder Miss Adelaide can’t resist his sweet nothings in her ear). Mattfeld plays three different characters this year at the Festival and his acting chops are praiseworthy in that he performs each character with a very different personality. No cookie cutter performance gags for Mattfeld. Vaughn is a suave and clever Sky well matched to the spirited Zorn’s Sarah. But Vaughn really won me over when he rescued one of my favorite performance numbers “Luck Be a Lady.” The scene was just a little flat on the desperate drama that goes along with this all male dance and song number until he came in and amped up the scene with his impassioned singing plea set in the sewers of New York.
Guys and Dolls has some real toe tappers for musical numbers and the pinstripe and plaid dressed gamblers really put on a showstopper with their number “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” However, there were a couple moments in this musical where I found myself wanting a little more. I wanted more time in Havana on the stage to develop the love story between Sky and Sarah.
I have seen it performed with more dancing and more story development before and I can see that Rothstein wanted to move the play along at a quick pace but I like Havana, and wanted just a little more time there.
This play is full of delightful characters but some of my favorite are the threesome that are sidekicks to Nathan and his efforts to find a location for the ongoing craps game. This threesome of Nicely-Nicely (Redge Johnson) Benny Southstreet (Josh Durfey) and Rusty Charlie (Brandon Burk) threw down some of the most grin worthy numbers in the play. I also have to give a shout out to Sarah’s grandpa, Arvide Abernathy played by Jonathan Gillard Daly. He like Mattfeld plays three very different roles in this year’s Festival and his performance has been stellar in every one. Arvide Abernathy has always had a soft spot in my heart and Daly gave him all the heart and wisdom of a doting grandpa.
There are layers of artistic talent that make this musical a success from the lighting to the New York skyline set. K.L. Alberts’ costume designs bring rollicking color to this musical and adds to the playful atmosphere that is always lurking in the wings even when love gets serious. In the end, this play was just pure fun. I had a blast and I will be singing “I’ve got the horse right here . . .” for days.
Guys and Dolls will play in the Randall L. Jones Theatre through September 1st. For more information or to purchase tickets visit bard.org or call 800-PLAYTIX.