Review - 'Guys and Dolls' at Goodspeed Musicals

Nancy Sasso Janis

'Guys and Dolls,' a musical fable of Broadway, will be enjoying a nice long run at the Goodspeed Opera House as Goodspeed Musicals opens it's 2015 season with a show they have never before produced. The story is based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The brassy new staging at Goodspeed was directed by Don Stephenson, choreographed by Alex Sanchez, and musical direction by Michael O'Flaherty.
 
The experience at Goodspeed began when the ushers wearing fedoras showed patrons to their seats. Then the recorded announcements were done in character by Nicely-Nicely. On the stage there was a set that featured a Times Square neon effect (actually more energy efficient LED lighting) on moveable panels that set the scene, well, nicely.
 
I will admit that I am not a big fan of this show but this production gave me a new appreciation for it's merits. The pace of this production was stepped up and that definitely helped. The choreography was on the level of 'Newsies' on the tiny Goodspeed stage and that is about as good as it gets. The musicians in the pit under the direction of Mr. O'Flaherty could not have been better as well.

General Matilda B Cartwright (Karen Murphy),  Big Jule (Jerry Gallagher) and the cast of Goodspeed Musicals’ Guys and Dolls now playing at the Goodspeed Opera House through June 20. Photo Credit © Photo by Diane Sobolewski

General Matilda B Cartwright (Karen Murphy),  Big Jule (Jerry Gallagher) and the cast of Goodspeed Musicals’ Guys and Dolls now playing at the Goodspeed Opera House through June 20. Photo Credit © Photo by Diane Sobolewski

Especially fine scenes were the first act closer, the quiet "I've Never Been in Love Before," and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." There was plenty of fun and lots of heart.
 
The large cast, almost all Equity professionals, were a mix of Goodspeed veterans and new faces. Nancy Anderson was an adorable Miss Adelaide, the perennial fiancée of Nathan Detroit, played with lots of charm by Mark Price. Scott Cote made his Goodspeed debut as the very cute Nicely-Nicely. Jerry Gallagher was a very big Big Jule, but wasn't overly scary. Karen Murphy was the commanding Gen. Cartwright.
 
Manna Nichols debuted at the opera house in the role of Sarah Brown and she sang beautifully. Noah Plomgren played gambler Benny Southstreet and the handsome Tony Roach oozed charm as Sky Matherson. All the 'guys' in the men's chorus sang in tight harmony and danced so very well.
 
Kudos to John Jellison who played Arvide Abernathy, Sarah's uncle and fellow mission worker. He gave a heartfelt and heartwarming performance as her loving uncle.
 
Costumes designed by Tracy Christensen were colorful and perfect for the period, with some of Adelaide's having a cartoon quality that definitely worked.
 
Michael Gennaro is the new Executive Director of Goodspeed Musicals, having recently replaced Founding Director Michael P. Price. Mr. Gennaro's father Peter danced in the 1950 Broadway production of 'Guys and Doll.' Director Don Stephenson is the husband of Mr. Loesser's daughter Emily, so this production is a bit of a family affair.
 
Guys and Dolls will run through June 20, 2015 Curtain times are Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select performances at 2:00 p.m.), Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (with select performances at 6:30 p.m.).

Mary Poppins at Chelmsford (MA) High School

Review - The Culture Project's "Nirbhaya" at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre