Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Maggie's Little Theater production of Guys & Dolls at St. Margaret Parish Hall by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Maggie's Little Theater production of Guys & Dolls at St. Margaret Parish Hall was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Guys & Dolls
Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows
Director: Barbara Auriemma
Choreographer: Nic Anthony Calabro
Music Director: Frank Auriemma
St. Margaret Parish Hall
66-05 79th Place
Middle Village, New York 11379
Reviewed 7/16/16  

Guys & Dolls is a musical with characters and plot elements based on "The Idyll Of Miss Sarah Brown", "Blood Pressure", and "Pick The Winner" - short stories by Damon Runyon written in the 1920s and 1930s. Runyon's stories concerned gangsters, gamblers, prostitutes, bootleggers, and other characters of the New York underworld, who had colorful names such as Nicely Nicely Johnson, Big Jule (from Chicago), Angie The Ox, Liver Lips Louie, Society Max, Harry The Horse, Rusty Charlie and Benny Southstreet. The plot involves a constant search for a "safe location" to hold a crap game and an unlikely love affair between Sargeant Sarah Brown, the head of the Save-A-Soul Mission, and Sky Masterson, an unrepentant gambler. Meanwhile, after a 14-year engagement, Miss Adelaide continues her efforts to snag Nathan Detroit, the imperfect man she loves. Both women decide in the end it is better to marry the men they love now and "bring them in for alterations" later.

The musical premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on November 24, 1950. It ran for 1,200 performances, winning five 1951 Tony Awards, including the award for Best Musical. An all-black cast staged the first Broadway revival of the show, which opened on July 11, 1976 in previews, officially on July 21st, at The Broadway Theatre. The show closed on February 13, 1977 after 239 performances and 12 previews. The 1992 Broadway revival at the Martin Beck Theatre was the most successful American remounting of the show since its original opening. It ran from April 14, 1992 to January 8, 1995, with 1,143 performances. It received eight Tony Award nominations and won four, including Best Revival. A 2009 Broadway revival of the show opened on March 1, 2009 at the Nederlander Theatre. That revival closed on June 14, 2009 after 28 previews and 113 performances.

This was my first time seeing a show produced by Maggie's Little Theater and I must say I was very impressed. The main actors in this production were top-notch, talented performers. Alan Perkins was perfectly cast in the role of Nathan Detroit and Dolores Voyer was very perky and effervescent as Miss Adelaide, his long-suffering fiance. I was particularly impressed with Anthony Edward George Faubion, who stole the show as Benny Southstreet, and Joe Paciullo had a strong stage presence as Nicely Nicely Johnson. Michael Perkins was very believable in the role of Big Jule, the gun-wielding Chicago gangster who Sky Masterson slugged. In real life, Big Jule wouldn't have just let that pass when he regained consciousness. While Alex Jamison (Sarah Brown - The Mission Doll) and Nic Anthony Calabro (Obadiah "Sky" Masterson) acted and sang extremely well, I found their chemistry lacking. In addition, not a lot of discretion was used when selecting actors to play many of the supporting roles in this show and more time should have been spent coordinating their dance moves. As it was, many of the minor characters visibly came across as amateur actors, included for the sake of being inclusive. The show featured a live orchestra, whose members included Frank Auriemma (Piano), Ed Voyer (Bass), Kevin Neyer (Drums), Jared Newlen & Erica D'Ippolito (Reeds), Scott Kulick (Trumpet), and Stephen Souza (Trombone).

Guys & Dolls contains such popular Broadway show tunes as "Fugue For Tinhorns", "I'll Know", "Bushel And A Peck", "Adelaide's Lament", "Guys & Dolls", "If I Were A Bell", "I've Never Been In Love Before", "Take Back Your Mink", "Luck Be A Lady", "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat", and "Marry The Man Today". There are also some very funny lines in the show. On his way to the Save-A-Soul Mission located at 409 West 49th Street, Big Jule says,"If it gets around Chicago that I went to a prayer meeting, no decent person will talk to me!". When Sky Masterson is told the missionaries are, unsuccessfully, "out every day trying to find the sinners," he responds, "Have you tried the nighttime?". Nathan Detroit, who is having trouble finding a location to host his crap game, tells Police Lt. Brannigan, "The heat is on, as you well know, since you now have to live on your salary." Finally, reflecting on how she is going to enjoy being a wife instead of a showgirl, Miss Adelaide says, "I'm going to love being in the kitchen...I've already tried all the other rooms."

Maggie's Little Theater is a very professionally run operation. The staff is friendly. The concession items, on sale before the show and during intermission, are reasonably priced ($2.00 for hot dogs, $1.00 for soda). They even sold home-made brownies for a buck a square. I bought four myself! If you are looking for something interesting and entertaining to do on a hot summer night, I highly recommend you see one of the remaining performances of Guys & Dolls on Friday, July 22nd at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, July 23rd at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, July 24th at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20.00 for adults, $15.00 for seniors and $12.00 for children and can be reserved by calling 917-579-5389 or online at http://www.maggieslittletheater.org/ 

If you have seen Guys & Dolls before, you will be impressed with the quality of this production. If you haven't, you don't want to miss this opportunity to experience it for the first time. If you are a man who has never seen a musical before, Neil Patrick Harris wants you to know that theater "is not just for gays anymore." (https://youtu.be/3BHyfYiBt5o) Still, it may be true that many men may have experienced live theater for the first time at the urging of a woman. So if you see a man in a theater, perhaps "you can bet even money he's only doing it for some doll!"

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