I seldom pass up the opportunity to see GUYS AND DOLLS. It’s one of my favorite musicals and Kaitlyn Chantry is one of my favorite directors. When she helms a musical, you know it will be sharp, exciting and full of surprises. (She changed my mind about CHESS for heavens sake!)
The good news is that Longwood Players cast James Weeden as Nicely-Nicely to kick up his heels and kick up the production several notches. He even made me forget the screeching violins and a mute that reduced the trumpet to what sounded like a kazoo. Who cares: Weeden and the other loveable tough guys rock that famous boat like gangbusters in music director Jason Luciana’s inspired, elongated New Orleans jazz version of “Sit Down.” They marched the audience into a frenzy and afforded stage manager Veronica Haakonsen and crew a nifty coup as they changed the set right around the parade.
Jason Hair-Wynn’s smart, flashy choreography had those rough and tumble gamblers moving and jumping in an organic dice-throwing triumph for “Luck Be a Lady.” Not one of them couldn’t dance and not a one didn’t look like an authentic heavy. (More often than not, the toughs look like dancers rather than criminals but not in Chantry’s production.)
Weeden, Michael Chateauneuf and Patrick Harris set the bar high from the get-go, pouring over their racing forms in the “Fugue for Tinhorns.” Then Fran Betlyon makes influenza pay dividends in “Adelaide’s Lament.” Betlyon and James Aitchison (as Nathan Detroit) turn their boxing match into gold in a hilarious, nose to nose “Sue Me.” The straight romance, for April Pressel and Ben Jamieson’s characters, offers a few chuckles as well, but let’s face it, it’s those pesky thugs who really deliver the goods.
The bad news? Longwood’s GUYS AND DOLLS closed this weekend.