Marriott Rolls A Winner With 'Guys And Dolls'
Stage sizzles with unlikely romance, energetic production numbers.
As Broadway classics go, Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls remains a timeless, energetic, and spirited hit. With an array of intriguing characters — from high-rolling gamblers and cabaret dancers to prayerful soul-savers — and a hearty love-infused premise backed by musical favorites such as “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat,” Guys and Dolls enchants in character and dialogue, song and dance.
Of course, Guys and Dolls' 60-year presence on the American stage, a window that has witnessed revivals big and small, as well as audience and critical acclaim, challenges any modern-day revival to live up to the hype.
At the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, director and choreographer Matt Raftery produces a stunner matching the highest of Guys and Dolls' expectations.
The legendary and smooth-talking gambler Sky Masterson (Brian Hissong) is as quick with his wit as the bet, a man unwilling to be weighed down by a woman as he travels the world in search of his next play. Nathan Detroit (Rod Thomas), meanwhile, a craps game organizer desperate for money, remains committed, if not comically so, to his fiancée of 14 years, the spitfire Miss Adelaide (Jessie Mueller).
Sarah Brown (Abby Mueller) provides a contrast to them all. A missionary leader amid New York City’s hard-charging underground, Brown grows frustrated with her outreach efforts, finding some comfort in the once-insincere, but rapidly changing interests of Sky. Characteristic of the honor that often lives in high-stakes gamblers, Sky confesses to Sarah, “Not even a gambler can forgive a marker,” a nod to the intrinsic pride — and growing desire for Sarah — he holds in his heart.
Jessie Mueller and Thomas deliver particularly engaging performances. Mueller’s gullible, fun energy and range on the stage — at once comedic and talented with the tune and dance — excites, amuses, and entertains. For his part, Thomas plays the well-intentioned, if not wayward, Nathan Detroit with a vulnerability and good-heartedness that compels empathy.
Side characters bring added dimension to the stage: the comforting, paternal, and sensible voice of Sarah’s mission colleague Arvide Abernathy (Roger Mueller); the oversized, bellowing presence of Chicago gambler Big Jule (John Lister), and the comedic relief of Nathan Detroit’s underlings, Nicely-Nicely Johnson (George Andrew Wolff) and Benny Southstreet (Bernie Yvon).
The show’s charismatic high point is the dynamic “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” number, wherein Nicely leads his cast mates in an enthusiastic and well-executed performance of the well-known tune. With 19 characters on Marriott’s square stage, the number could fall into clutter and chaos; instead, Raftery’s choreography ensures focus and harmony. It’s a fine example of the quality and discipline the show embraces to produce a final performance worthy of praise.
While the show’s 150-minute length makes weeknight attendance a late-night challenge, Marriott’s Guys and Dolls pleases with Raftery’s steady-handed direction and choreography, a cast committed to their roles in the performance, flawless musical direction by Dr. Ryan Nelson, a detailed, inventive set, and the jumpy tunes that have made Loesser’s story endure on the stage.
Guys and Dolls runs at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through March 27. Performances are Wednesdays 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Ticket prices range from $40-48 with senior and student discounts available. For information, call the Marriott Theatre box office at (847) 634-0200. The theater is located off Milwaukee Avenue just south of Route 22.