Seventy years on, the Tony award-winning classic musical “Guys & Dolls” is now the stuff of high school and community theater.
Not to knock those productions, but where can one see a professional version? There hasn’t been a Broadway revival for years.
Look no further, as Village Theatre’s sensational show continues through Feb. 2 at Everett Performing Arts Center under the direction of Snohomish High School alum and regional theater favorite Billie Wildrick.
“It’s such a beautiful musical,” Wildrick said by phone on Monday. “It’s fun and funny, and the the dialogue is such that high school and community groups do well with it.”
However, professional actors are able to bring nuance, and have time to work on their characters’ emotional journeys, she said. “For us, it’s about humanity. It’s about people interacting face-to-face with people who are different from themselves, without fear.”
Here’s the set up: Avoiding the cops, gambling promoter Nathan Detroit has a “floating” craps game going in New York, but he doesn’t have the dough to rent the next location. His long-suffering fiance, Hot Box nightclub performer Miss Adelaide, wants him to get out of the game and get married. Nonetheless, hoping to fund the game to keep the dice rollers happy, Detroit bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson $1,000 that Sky can’t get the local Save-A-Soul Mission sergeant, the prudish but lovely Sarah Brown, to fly down to Havana, Cuba, for the evening.
These four characters are at the heart of the story, but the talented ensemble plays a huge part.
The overture (performed by a fantastic orchestra directed by Julia Thornton) segues into an opening number that introduces life on the streets of New York. The ensemble also shows its enormous dance skill during the Havana club scene and in the crapshooters dance.
The choreography is top notch, owing to the work of Nikki Long and her obvious great working relationship with Wildrick as they focus on the story.
Also making the show a great one is scenic designer Steven Capone, who seamlessly takes us, without blackouts, from the iron-work jungle of 49th Street in Manhattan to a Havana malecon. Others deserving of praise are lighting designer David Gipson, costume designer Cathy Hunt and stage manager Pamela Campi Spee.
Minor characters include gamblers Nicely-Nicely (a great job by Kyle Nicholas Anderson), Benny (John David Scott), Rusty (MJ Jurgensen), Harry the Horse (Cobey Mandarino) and Big Jule (Terence Kelley), as well as the mission general (the hilarious Bobbi Kotula), Police Lt. Bannigan (Charles Leggett) and Sarah’s grandfather, Arvide Abnerathy (played by Allen Fitzpatrick, who is touching in his song to Sarah).
Sky Masterson, played by Village and Fifth Avenue Theatre favorite Dane Stokinger, is more than a “cool jerk,” Wildrick said. Stokinger gets the subtleties of the character from the start, and it’s always a pleasure to hear him sing. “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” was a highlight.
Mallory King, who Village audiences also will recognize, is Sarah Brown. Especially great in the song “If I Were a Bell,” King also lights up her duet with Stokinger in “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “I’ll Know.”
The very funny Matt Wolfe pulls off the Nathan Detroit in a very Nathan Lane-esque portrayal. (Lane played Detroit in the 1990s Broadway revival.) One can’t help but love him as he sings “Sue Me.”
The show’s star, for me, was Kate Jaeger as Miss Adelaide. Known to Village audiences for her work as Madame Thenardier in “Les Miserables,” Jaeger has her own hilarious take on Adelaide, and thank goodness, Wildrick (who played Miss Adelaide at the Fifth Avenue nine years ago) didn’t mess with it.
Jaeger’s Adelaide is smart and perseverant, as opposed to Nathan Detroit’s fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants personality.
The packed Sunday matinee audience loved her “Adelaide’s Lament,” “Take Back Your Mink” and “Marry the Man Today,” the epiphany in which she and Sarah realize that they must take action.
As Wildrick writes in the program’s director’s note, the ampersand in the title of the musical could really be a “versus,” as in guys versus dolls, feminine versus masculine, saints versus sinners, innocence versus the con.
“In our country we are forgetting we are all married to each other. We are not embracing the humanity behind differing points of view,” Wildrick said. “We need to commit to the relationship and not the fight.”
“Guys & Dolls” is Wildrick’s directing debut with Village, following last season’s directorial debut with “Annie” at the Fifth Avenue in Seattle.
She’s got us rolling the dice and hoping for more from her.
If you go
Village Theatre’s production of “Guys & Dolls” is showing through Feb. 2 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett. Shows are Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are $45-$85. Inquire about tickets by going online to www.villagetheatre.org/everett or by calling the box office at 425-257-8600.
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