Thursday, April 25, 2024

If you ask me… “Guys and Dolls” Sings at Downtown Cabaret

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By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

“Guys and Dolls” Sings at Downtown Cabaret
It’s hard for a near-perfect musical like “Guys and Dolls” to ever be anything less than entertaining and, at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre, a revival of the Frank Loesser/Jo Swerling/Abe Burrows classic is getting a fairly good production that should please just about everyone.

Based on a story by Damon Runyon and set during prohibition, “Guys and Dolls” features two love stories. One is between suave gambler and lady killer, Sky Masterson (Vincent Mccoy) and uptight Salvation Army missionary Sergeant Sarah Brown (Felicia Varvaras). The other is between luckless card shark Nathan Detroit (Duane Lanham) and showgirl Miss Adelaide (Jeannine Yoder, delicious), his ever-so-patient fiancée. The romances are set against a backdrop of a New York City long gone with zoot suits, “Hot Box Girls” and tough guys with names like Harry the Horse and Big Jule. The book by Swerling and Burrows is matchless and Frank Loesser’s score has stood the test of time with perennials like “I’ll Know,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “Luck Be a Lady.”

At the Cabaret, veteran director Bradford Blake has a good company backing up his leads and his pacing of the musical is swift and funny. The voices all register here, though Varvaras is shrill on her solos and her chemistry with Mccoy often seems forced. She fares better late in the show singing with Yoder with the delightful “Marry the Man Today.” Yoder hits all the right notes as the nasal-voice Adelaide and easily nails her signature number “Adelaide’s Lament.” She also has a ball in her duet with Lanham, both delivering “Sue Me” to a roar of audience approval. Mccoy’s silky-voiced Sky Masterson gets better as the musical chugs along and his charisma is evident throughout.

In supporting roles, John Michael Whitney essays the plum role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson quite nicely and brings down the house twice, singing the title tune (with inspired support from Jojo DeVellis’ Benny Southstreet) and the gospel-inspired “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” A shout-out also to Mark Feltch, whose take on Big Jule is consistently funny.

David Kievit’s scenic and projection design works extremely well, though I question Blake’s decision to have patrons seated at tables during scenes that are supposed to take place outside, as well as the addition of a cabaret table during the sewer sequence. Jen Gleason’s flashy lighting was hit and miss on opening night, but, for the most part, the entire company performed valiantly and mostly error-free for the first public performance.

There’s a reason “Guys and Dolls” has endured and been beloved since its 1950 Broadway debut and you’ll be reminded why now at the Downtown Cabaret.

“Guys and Dolls” continues at the Downtown Cabaret, 263 Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut through October 14th For further information, call: (203) 576-1636 or visit: www.dtcab.com.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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