THEATER REVIEW

Game is on with 'Guys and Dolls'


The cast of the Gainesville Community Playhouse production of "Guys and Dolls" includes, from left back row, Frank Edmondson, Dan Christophy, Henry Wihhnyk, Chad Barnett, Ed Hunter, Jerry Brewington, Larry Katz; from left front row, Justin Slack, Richard Healey, John Carmean, Alex Pearson and Mike Testa. The musical runs through Feb. 7.

DARON DEAN/Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 10:57 p.m.
'The big trouble with 'Guys and Dolls' is that a performance of it lasts only one evening when it ought to last about a week."
These words, borrowed from John Chapman's review in The New York Daily News of November 1950, are so appropriate for the Gainesville Community Playhouse's production of "Guys and Dolls."
What a great night of theater this edition of the Abe Burrows-Frank Loesser musical gives audiences. A seamless production directed with energy and humor by Pat Thomson, it's a triumph for its 30-plus cast and talented production crew.
Loesser wrote the music and lyrics for the songs in "Guys and Dolls," and there isn't a clinker in the bunch. The book, by Jo Swerling and Burrows, is based on stories by Damon Runyon, who gave humor to cartoon characters of New York City's street people. Book and music fit together perfectly.
GCP's production of "Guys and Dolls" gets off to a rousing start with Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Frank Edmondson), Benny Southstreet (Alex Pearson) and Rusty Charlie (Eli Mizrahi) singing "Fugue for Tinhorns."
Immediately following the opening number, a Salvation Army brigade smartly marches down the aisle with Sarah Brown looking to save some sinners. She hasn't long to wait as inveterate gambler Nathan Detroit joins his fellow craps shooters to sing "The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York."
Nathan, who is in charge of the illegal game, is responsible for finding a venue free of cops. He involves Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler, in his scheming. Masterson, being a lady's man, then accepts a bet from Nathan that he can take prissy Sarah Brown on a jaunt to Cuba. On the strength of a bet he feels he can't lose, Nathan arranges his game and is persuaded to set a wedding date with his long-time fiancee, Miss Adelaide.
Casting Susan Christophy as Adelaide was a stroke of genius. Christophy is so right as Miss Adelaide, it's difficult to believe she might be someone else off stage. Her renditions of "Adelaide's Lament (A Person Could Develop a Cold)," "Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink" are right on target and very funny. Christophy has mastered both the era's New York City street accent and the whine of a woman engaged for 14 years with no wedding in sight.
Mike Testa as Nathan Detroit does a noble job keeping up with his wannabe bride, not to mention all his wannabe craps shooters. He makes Nathan likeable and funny.
The other set of lovers, Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson, are played by Jennifer Anderson and John Carmean. Anderson has a sweet soprano, effective in "If I Were a Bell" and "I've Never Been in Love Before." Carmean joins her with a strong baritone. Making a match for these two disparate people would not seem to be in the cards but trust Burrows and Loesser. All ends well.
In GCP's "Guys and Dolls," everything happens as it should, including a fine rendition of "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" by the gifted Edmondson and a cast of rockin' sinners. James E. Jarrell's amusing, quirky choreography and Laurel Lamme's musical direction also deserve praise. Marihelen Wheeler's costumes are original, funny and beautiful.
There is so much to enjoy in GCP's "Guys and Dolls." Gainesville audiences, too, may wish the show would never end. Failing that, a return visit might ease the pain of leaving.

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