Rockville Musical Theater Guys and DollsBy Bob Ashby • Nov 5th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Rockville Musical Theater: (Info) (Web)
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Rockville, MD
Through November 16th
2:55, with intermission
$22/$20 Seniors, Students
Reviewed November 1st, 2013
With all respect to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bock and Harnick, and the other greats of Broadway’s “Golden Age,” there has never been a more perfect score for any musical than Frank Loesser’s for Guys and Dolls. There is not a single song that merits less than an A or A+. The greatest strength of the current Rockville Musical Theater (RMT) production is the performance of Loesser’s songs by a talented cast and orchestra.
Start with Katherine Riddle’s turn as Sarah Brown, the mission doll. Whether delivering ballads like “I’ll Know When My Love Comes Along” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” turning her wild side loose in “If I Were a Bell,” or engaging in some comic feminine conspiracy with Miss Adelaide in “Marry the Man Today,” Riddle’s high, clear, powerful soprano brings out all the musicality one could ask from Loesser’s writing while illuminating the nuances of a character who is more complex than she can sometimes appear. One of Riddle’s nicest moments is as she reacts wordlessly but expressively to Arvide Abernathy’s “More I Cannot Wish You,” sung tenderly by Gary Carl Fackenthall. Riddle’s face and body register her varied emotions as she thinks about her relationship with Sky and responds to Arvide’s paternal gentleness.
Sarah’s love interest, Sky Masterson, is played by Christopher Overly, who brings a pleasing baritone sound to his sections of “I’ll Know When My Love Comes Along” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” blending well with Riddle in the duet portions of the numbers. Loesser gives Sky the musical gem of the show, “My Time of Day,” a short art song that reflects the composer’s love of working into the wee hours. Overly performed it capably, though his task in phrasing the number would have been easier had music director Valerie Higgs taken the tempo slightly faster. In both singing and acting terms, Overly’s Sky is silky smooth; a greater touch of charisma and, at times, anxiety, would be a welcome addition to the character, raising the stakes in a number like “Luck Be a Lady.”
The comic pair of Nathan Detroit (Jacy D’Aiutolo) and Miss Adelaide (Sara Charbonneau) pull off their numbers equally effectively. Their second act duet, “Sue Me,” without losing its humor, acquires more emotional depth than in many productions. This could well the best rendition of the number I have ever seen on stage: there is more real pain in Adelaide’s accusations, as Charbonneau arches her back like an angry cat, and more contrition and submissiveness in D’Aiutolo’s kneeling as he implores her to accept him, faults and all. Adelaide’s Hot Box numbers — “Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink” — are lively and well sung. Charbonneau is likewise vocally robust in Adelaide’s signature number, “Adelaide’s Lament,” concerning the effect of her prolonged engagement on her beleaguered upper respiratory tract. Throughout the show, however, it would have been better if Adelaide’s sneezes seemed to be genuinely out-of control psychosomatic symptoms rather than something the character does for effect. It would also be interesting some day to see a director and an actor approach Adelaide without the traditional character voice and accent, which 60+ years into the history of the show may be more a matter of performance habit than anything essential to the character.
Heavy-set tenor Micky Goldstein is perfectly cast, physically and vocally, as the unflappable Nicely-Nicely Johnson. His rousing “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” supported by the well-coordinated singing and movement of the entire ensemble, is one of the evening’s highlights. In the Damon Runyon stories on which the show is based (see “A Piece of Pie,” in which the narrator comments that Nicely can out-eat anything on two legs), Nicely-Nicely is seldom without food in his hand, and Goldstein might have made good use of food props beyond the one scene in which he carries a grocery bag. Joining Goldstein in the title song, Hark Tagunicar as Benny Southstreet displays a strong high baritone voice and fluid movement, though at times he could have benefitted from greater restraint in his gestures. As visiting gangster Big Jule, Frank DeSando does comic intimidation well, with excellent timing.
Higgs’ orchestra was consistently strong and musically satisfying, playing the score with no evident errors and working harmoniously with the singers. Sara Schabach’s choreography shone particularly in the Hot Box girls’ movement in “Take Back Your Mink” and the gamblers’ “Crap Shooter’s Dance.” Overly’s well-executed balletic moves in “Luck Be a Lady” might prudently have been omitted in the interest of consistency with Sky’s character, however. Leaving aside Nicely’s coral jacket and a few lime green shirts, Mary Lynn Harrington’s costume design uses a more subdued color palette for the gamblers than is often the case in productions of the show. The black dresses for the Hot Box girls in “Take Back Your Mink” and Adelaide’s glittery outfit in the number were also notable. Sarah is mostly confined to prim and proper outfits, but her costuming as well as her character gets wilder in “If I Were a Bell.”
The set, designed by Robert Thompson and Mary Seng, is minimalist, consisting mostly of several open wood frames that are rearranged in various configurations as the show proceeds. Neither representational nor abstract, the frames add little to the look or feeling of the various scenes. They are painted in colors unfortunately suggesting that Runyon’s New York is a kiddie playground, as are the crates on which the ensemble sits in “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” The trapezoidal building outlines on the backdrop are more successful, however. While generally functional, Stephen Deming’s lighting design left some cold spots, especially up center, and insisted on bright specials for soloists in a way that sometimes seemed heavy-handed.
Getting the details right is one of the things that distinguishes a great production from a good one, and the RMT production fell victim to some errors at the detail level. There were a number of sound glitches on opening night — mikes opening late and some random snaps, crackles, and pops. The girls’ stoles in “Take Back Your Mink” did not much resemble mink, even the artificial sort. A suit that Sky wore was baggy, and a shiny suit that Nathan wore was too tight, especially across the middle. Most painfully, on stage for Sky’s lovely line “And the street lamps’ light turns the gutters to gold” was a prop street lamp that contained no light at all.
Runyon wrote the stories from which Guys and Dolls was adapted in the 1930s, and the sensibility of his mythical Manhattan is very much of that era. Loesser and his collaborators created some dissonance by setting the story — with its references to television and convenient daily flights to Havana — in 1950, when the musical opened. That is a minor discomfort, of course, compared to the glories of the score. Hearing and seeing fine performances of it, as in this RMT production, never grows old.
- Nicely-Nicely Johnson: Micky Goldstein
- Benny Southstreet: Hark Tagunicar
- Rusty Charlie: Timothy Ziese
- Sarah Brown: Katherine Riddle
- Arvide Abernathy: Gary Carl Fackenthall
- Agatha/Mission Band: Sara Richards
- Calvin/Mission Band: Steve Quillen
- Martha/Mission Band: Elsbeth Clay
- Hilda/Mission Band: Sony Tavitian
- Harry the Horse: Bill Walker
- Lt. Brannigan: Bruce Rosenberg
- Nathan Detroit: Jacy D’Aiutolo
- Society Max/Joey Biltmore: Jeff Rathner
- Brandy Bottle Bates/Hot Box Dancer: Felicity Brown
- Scranton Slim/Hot Box Dancer: Katie Morgan
- Angie the Ox/Hot Box Dancer: Gina Johnson
- Miss Adelaide: Sara Charbonneau
- Sky Masterson: Christopher Overly
- Mimi/Hot Box Dancer: Hayley North
- General Matilda B. Cartwright: Aetna Thompson
- Big Jule: Frank DeSando
- Hot Box Dancer: Vivanna Westbrook
- Hot Box Dancer: Kristin Brown
The Production Staff
- Producer: Teri Klein Allred
- Director: Eric S. Scerbo
- Music Director: Valerie A. Higgs
- Choreographer: Sara Schabach
- Set Designer/Master Carpenter: Robert A. Thompson and Mzry Seng
- Stage Manager: Katherine Offut
- Lighting Designer: Stephen Deming
- Costume Designer: Mary Lynn Harrington
- Sound Designer: Mike Taylor and Steve Quillen
- Properties: Nancy McLaughlin and Sony Tavitian
- Assisted by: Christal Taylor and Cathy Kieserman
- Hair/Makeup Designer: Denise A. Levien
- Assistant Stage Managers: Valerie Mikles, Jeff Smerling
- Set Painting: Robert A. Thompson, Mary Seng, Kristen Mendoza,
- Jonathan Cagle-Mullberg, Mark Allred
- Set Decoration/Dressing: Nancy McLaughlin and Sonya Tavitian
- Fight Choreographer: Sara Schabach
- Dance Captain: Felicity Brown
- Set Construction: Mark Allred, Jonathan Cagle-Mulberg
- Prop Firearms: Brian Dettling
- Running Crew: Peter Greenberg, Emily Mullin
- Audition Pianist: Arielle Bayer, Marci Shegogue
- House Manager: Kathryn Chongpinichi
- Conductor and Keyboard: Valerie A. Higgs
- Woodwinds: Eric Abalahin, Sharada Rao, Christopher Condon, Charlie Condon, Katie Marcotte
- Trumpets: Dave Haverstock, Mark Allred
- Trombone: Steve Ward
- French Horn: Deb Kline
- Percussion: Jim Hofmann
- Bass: Tony Aragon
Disclaimer: Rockville Musical Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9869.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.