Friday, November 15, 2019

Fresh Choreo Enlivens “Guys and Dolls”

Cast of Guys and Dolls (Mark Kitaoka)
Guys and Dolls
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through December 29, 2019
Everett: January 3, 2020-February 2, 2020

“What’s playing at Village? I’ll tell ya what’s playing at Village: a thing about a guy who wants a doll but can’t stop gambling and needs a thousand bucks so his blood doesn’t make a big spillage. That’s what’s playing at Village!” (with apologies to Frank Loesser)

It’s an oldie but goodie, Guys and Dolls is! The almost three-hour musical classic is so good that you can examine it through and through and still probably can’t figure out what to cut to make it shorter. That’s class!

A splendid version is now at Village Theatre, helmed by stage vet Billie Wildrick who is making her name as a musical director more often these days. You might have seen Wildrick as Miss Adelaide at the 5th Avenue in 2011.

Wildrick and choreographer Nikki Long have freshened the choreo elements so they are sharp, angled, in sync, and great fun. They’ve embedded little “stories” into the choreographic elements so you have to sit up and take notice because otherwise you’re missing a lot of “bits” that enliven the dance.

Long is also adept at determining the limits of movers-but-not-dancers so that their dance elements seamlessly combine to make everyone look like a great dancer. That’s not an easy trick and I admire it.

The visuals are striking with a metal catwalk-type upper area with stairs down to a large moving edifice with stairs on either side (designed by Steven Capone). They call it “the boat” as it floats from side to side of the stage allowing for the sense of travel. Other scenic elements are simple and fly in and out from above.

Massive numbers of colorful costumes are changed into and out of by the very busy ensemble and provided by designer Cathy Hunt. Effective lighting by David Gipson assists scene changes and times of day or night. Haley Parcher’s sound designs assist music director Julia Thornton’s small-but-mighty band.

If you’re not aware of the story, about gamblers going "good," it’s a family-friendly outing that’s funny from end to end. Some of the most famous songs, like Luck Be A Lady, have become common fare for singers to perform.

Nathan Detroit (Matt Wolfe) has a fiancée of fourteen years, Adelaide (Kate Jaeger), who wants to marry him, but won’t until he’s given up gambling. He thinks one more big score will help him quit, but he needs a thousand dollars and bets ace gambler Sky Masterson (Dane Stokinger) that Sky can’t get a Salvation Army "doll," Sarah Brown (Mallory King) to go to dinner with Sky.

More than a dozen gamblers try to avoid getting arrested by Lt. Brannigan (Charles Leggett), while being begged to save their souls by Salvation Army missionaries Arvide Bernathy (Allen Fitzpatrick) and General Cartwright (Bobbi Kotula). There are musical interludes from Miss Adelaide’s Hotbox girls, to add humor and demonstrate Adelaide’s job.

A dedicated ensemble of players fills out the sturdy cast. A bit of gender-bending is a modern twist to casting that adds flavor.

The “sin” of gambling is played mostly for laughs and it’s set in old-timey New York so it’s also removed in time. The religious side is also on the light side, but perhaps the timing is right to consider this a nod to the Christmas season, as the show goes into December in Issaquah and moves up to Everett in January.

The whole family can enjoy this classic and it’s a great one to introduce kids to if you want them to love musicals the way you do. Also, if you like to gift “experiences” instead of things, this is a great idea for a favorite relative or friend’s stocking stuffer!

For more information, go to www.villagetheater.org or call 425-392-2202. 

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