Sep 25, 2018
by Alexa Chipman
Swinging rhythm pulses through the streets of New York, energizing low-life gamblers and night club dancers with memorable songs like “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “More I Cannot Wish You” in an idealized 1950s setting. Its tenacious vitality and beloved characters enable the classic musical to live on to enthusiastic applause, despite old-fashioned notions of female empowerment. Director James Newman has ensured that the women are depicted as intelligent and direct, giving the impression that Adelaide is well-read and clever, rather than giving in to the usual “silly blonde” persona which she is often presented as. His careful adjustments alleviate the more troublesome aspects of the story, creating an entertaining, feisty production of ‘Guys and Dolls.’
Frank Loesser’s richly layered music is captured from the first note by a talented ensemble of supporting actors and music director Ginger Beavers’ vibrant band. The assorted gangsters and ne’er-do-wells shambling through alleys in pinstripe suits offer wistful melodies and occasional comedy. Randy Nazarian’s Nicely Nicely Johnson is a standout performance of clownish humor, exemplary vocals in“Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and spirited tap dancing.
‘Guys and Dolls’ explores parallel love stories. Nathan Detroit (Ariel Zuckerman) and Adelaide (Ella Park) have been engaged so long that she suspects he does not plan to marry her at all, but she cannot bear to leave the relationship. Zuckerman’s expressive reactions, impeccable timing and earnest protestations are matched by Park’s poised, determined Adelaide. Their palpable chemistry is engaging and enables hilarious misunderstandings as the plot unfolds.
Ezra Hernadez is a light-hearted, mischievous Sky Masterson, whose transformation into devoted missionary is not unreasonable. Elenor Paul’s Sarah Brown keeps whiplashing between strict focus and uninhibited passion, which is confusing, despite a splendid scene from Paul in Havana. It may have been caused by the odd choice of having the character unexpectedly throw herself at Sky mere minutes after they meet, but the duo does not have a believable connection.
Pamela Johnson designed adorable lace-covered corsets for the Hot Box, dapper suits, and tailored uniforms that give a pop of color against neutral-toned sets by Brian Redfern that are rather meagre, especially for the splashy Cuban location. Joseph Favalora’s choreography sashays with the music, giving support to the ongoing story, rather than distracting from it with ostentatious movement.
‘Guys and Dolls’ is filled with sensational harmonies and dynamic performances. From a riveting“Luck Be a Lady” to the frivolous“If I Were a Bell” you will find yourself humming on your way home. 6th Street Playhouse offers a chance to step back in time for a beguiling evening of whimsical romance.
Presented by 6th Street Playhouse through October 14, 2018
Fri/Sat at 7:30pm, Sat/Sun at 2:00pm
Thurs at 7:30pm September 27 and October 4
G.K. Hardt Theatre at 6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Photos by Eric Chazankin
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