"Guys And Dolls" Premieres - Runaway Stage Productions
Final Bows. Foreground, Musical Director Sean Bianco, and the orchestra. Actors on stage, left to right: Scott Reese (Lt. Branigan), Michael McElroy (Harry the Horse), Frank Hardin (Arvide Abernathy), Scott Woodard (Nicely-Nicely Johnson), Bob Baxter (Nathan Detroit), Beth Nilsen (Sarah Brown), Dave Lack (Sky Masterson), Miss Adelaide (Lauren Miller), Carlo Stowers (Benny Southstreet), Kyle Hadley (Big Julie), Anne-Marie Trout (General Cartwright).
Went to see the Friday premiere of "Guys and Dolls". Lots of good performances, with just a few opening night jitters. Characteristic Runaway zeal and rapid pacing kept the show from dragging.
Beth Nilsen played Sarah Brown and Dave Lack played Sky Masterson in an ideal manner. It was easy to tell Beth was having a great time in 'If I Were A Bell.' Dave shined in 'Luck Be A Lady.'
Bob Baxter was funny as Nathan Detroit (really liked his unexpected exit in 'Sue Me.')
It was real intriguing watching Lauren Miller as Miss Adelaide. Lauren played the same role at DMTC in March, 2004, but there were many changes in approach here. Adelaide's now a redhead (formerly a blonde). The pacing of the songs, particularly 'Adelaide's Lament' is different than two years ago, and the enunciation of some words (e.g., 'endure') is more open-mouthed. Lauren's acting has improved - the acting seemed to be better than I remember from two years ago. She's a huge asset to the show. [Update: Steve Isaacson informs me that Lauren was a redhead two years ago as well. WHAT!!?? Is my memory is shoddy? Well, Steve has an elephantlike recall of detail, and he was Nathan Detroit besides, so I defer to his memory.]
I thought the dancing was too processional for my taste, starting first with 'Runyonland', and also in the beginning part of 'Havana.' Part of that emphasis might have been a structural feature - the runway loop downstage of the orchestra, last seen in 'Pirates of Penzance,' is back, but I recall Pam Kay Lourentzos was able to fight back against linearity.
In 'Havana', the rhythm bothered me. Latin rhythms are generally 123/123, but here they started as 12/12/123, which is more of a tango rhythm, not a salsa or samba rhythm. OK, I guess, for theatrical dancing, but for me it created an estrangement. The last half of 'Havana' got much better, particularly with the couple dancing and the fight sequence. Runaway pays a lot of attention to getting fight sequences right. I was surprised to discover after the show that Ron Cisneros was the choreographer. The dancing seemed un-Ron-like. I wonder if he was aiming more for a period, MGM-studio feel?
In some ways, the hardest dancing to do is the Hotbox scenes: 'A Bushel and a Peck' and 'Take Back Your Mink.' There are too many constraints on the scenes to really let loose - no Martha Graham here - so some variant of relying on cuteness and posing has to be done. I enjoyed seeing Kaitlin Flint up there, doing her cute best.
Scott Woodard was a fine Nicely-Nicely. His performance was much more natural in this show than it had been in "Sweeney Todd." My guess is that comedy is his forte, not drama. Carlo Stowers also put in a good Benny Southstreet. Kyle Hadley made a commanding - and funny - Big Jule.
Michael McElroy was a good Harry The Horse, but he seemed to be suffering a bit of costuming jiu-jitsu. His cream-colored coat is really nice close-up, but best for winter and everyone else is set for summer. He got into the spirit of 'The Crapshooter's Dance,' but probably got a bit too disheveled. In one of Michael's first blog posts, he mentioned the metrosexual quiz. I suggest at least 35% metrosexual for the sewer scene.
Frank Hardin got a song! Frank approached 'More I Cannot Wish You' in a very tender and earnest way, acting more than usual for this song, which worked for me.
I was surprised to see two people in the show: Charlotte Hartshorne, who did 'Guys and Dolls' at Woodland Opera House in 2001, and who is in my Sunday ballet class with Pam Kay Lourentzos, and also Tony Rodriguez, who I last saw on stage in DMTC's 'Tommy,' in 2001, and also singing at Max's Opera Cafe in Arden Fair Mall (until it closed last year). Glad to see them both again on stage!
Oddly enough, The Drunk (Jason Parsons) made only one unexpected entrance (at the beginning of 'Marry The Man Today'), and not in the show's two customary places (I played The Drunk in both WOH's 2001 and DMTC's 2004 "Guys And Dolls", so I'm sensitive to where he should be). Jason has such good facial expressions! What a joy!
There were some slow entrances and dyslexic dialogue on opening night, but by and large, things went smoothly. Microphone technical lapses were few. I thought the lighting was a bit too dark for my taste.
After the show, I told Mike and Lauren 'looks like you were having fun up there!' Lauren reminded me that we had both participated in a conversation at DMTC concerning what certain stock phrases really mean, in particular, the trite boilerplate people are prone to use after a show. Oh yeah, I forgot! If I remember correctly, 'looks like you were having fun up there' translates roughly, and acidly, as 'well, at least someone was enjoying themselves.' I reminded Lauren that, despite my best efforts, my expression is about as genuine as $3 bill, or as down to earth as a Stepford Tupperware party. I can't help myself. I was sincere, but good luck ever convincing anyone of that!
Great show! Check it out!