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‘Guys and Dolls’ is a Sure Bet at Music Circus

guys and dolls
The cast of "Guys and Dolls' performs the rousing finale of the Music Circus production.

Gangsters and gamblers, showgirls and sincere soul-savers come together in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen for the Frank Loesser musical “Guys and Dolls.” The 1950 Tony Award-winning Best Musical gets a fresh, lively interpretation this week at Music Circus.

The plot concerns the efforts of inveterate gambler Nathan Detroit (Jeff Skowron) to find a location for a big craps game that will draw gamblers from across the country, including high-roller Sky Masterson (Edward Watts). The subplot — that becomes the main plot –involves Detroit’s efforts to avoid bringing his long-running (14-year) engagement to showgirl Miss Adelaide (Lesli Margherita) to fruition and Sky Masterson’s infatuation with Sarah Brown (Ali Ewoldt), the leader of the Save-a-Soul Mission.

The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is based on several short stories written by Damon Runyon in the 1920s and ’30s about the underbelly of New York society. Runyon had a soft spot for these unsavory characters and  portrayed them favorably. They come off as likable miscreants.

“Guys and Dolls” is considered a classic musical comedy, one that reflects a past time through infectious singing and dancing. Based on stories from the ‘20s and ‘30s and written for Broadway in 1950, the show uses the vernacular of its age. Men refer to females as “dolls” – something that would never fly in today’s “me too” atmosphere. We accept it because it is authentic to its time and characters.

The performers seem genuinely committed to their roles, from Evan Harrington as the guy so good they named him twice (Nicely-Nicely) to the gruff Jerry Gallagher as Big Jule and Ron Wisniski as Lieutenant Brannigan, the only representative of the law in the show.

Several actors have big-time Broadway credits, including Ali Ewoldt (Sarah Brown, who portrayed Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera” and Cosette in “Les Miserables”); Harrington (Nicely-Nicely), who played Billy in “Once” and Brian in “Avenue Q”; and Michael Paternostro (Benny Southstreet), who was in the original Broadway casts of “Fosse” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

The score includes some well-known and well-loved songs, including “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” The dance to “Sit Down” is especially lively and nearly brought the audience to its feet. The applause following it was loud and sustained.

Michael Lichtefeld’s choreography is inventive; Charles Repole’s direction is relaxed (maybe a little too much so), but his dedicated cast carries through. The orchestra, under the direction of James Olmstead, is tight and bright.

“Guys and Dolls” continues at 7:30 p.m. daily through Saturday, at 2 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (final show). Tickets are $45-$91. Music Circus is at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 557-1999 or go to BroadwaySacramento.com.

New at B Street Theatre

“The Last Match” by Anna Ziegler opens Friday at B Street Theatre in the Sofia. It’s a sports drama that takes place at the semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. At the match, the experienced six-time champion – an American – is challenged by a rising Russian tennis star.

The play actually proceeds through the heads of the athletes as each point is played. The American hopes to win his seventh title and solidify his reputation; the Russian sees the opportunity to topple a legend.

Jason Kuykendall, Hunter Hoffman, Elisabeth Nunziato and Stephanie Altholz star.

Performances are at 6:30 p. m. Tuesdays, 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 1. Tickets are $28-$47. B Street Theatre is at the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts, 2700 Capitol Ave.

For tickets, or for more information, call (916) 443-5300 or go to BStreetTheatre.org.

Photo by Charr Crail

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About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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