At Studio 58 on Saturday, February 3. Continues until February 30
Studio 58’s production of Guys and Dolls is not only one of the most exhilarating student productions you’ll ever experience, it’s also one of the best shows you’re going to see on-stage anywhere this year—and I mean anywhere.
The 1950 musical itself is, of course, superb. The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows tells the story of big-time gambler Sky Masterson, who falls in love with Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown when he dates her on a bet. The subplot charts the relationship between Nathan Detroit, who runs the biggest floating crap game in New York, and the single-named Adelaide, who sings at a joint called the Hot Box Club.
Frank Loesser’s swinging, hilarious songs just keep coming, and lots of them—including “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, “Take Back Your Mink”, and “Luck Be a Lady”—are justifiably famous. Under Lloyd Nicholson’s musical direction, the harmonies here are as rich and deep as a multilayered chocolate cake.
The real triumph of this production is that it profoundly understands the musical’s sense of fun. This is the highest-profile show that David Hudgins has directed, but he has coordinated a triumphantly stylish production. The inventiveness of Shelley Stewart Hunt’s choreography never stops; in “A Bushel and a Peck”, which Adelaide and the Hot Box girls perform together, they all start out as sections of a giant pumpkin.
Most importantly, the young cast members understand both the irony and the exuberance of the sexual stereotypes they’re inhabiting. The Hot Box girls manage to be scaldingly sexy without demeaning themselves, and the athleticism of the guys’ “The Crap Game Dance” is jaw-dropping.
As Sarah, Tamera Broczkowski is clear-voiced, witty, and subtly moving. I also particularly enjoyed Jon Lachlan Stewart as Nathan, as well as Chris Cochrane and the precise Charlie Gallant as Nathan’s sidekicks Nicely Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet. Luke Camilleri’s Sky Masterson is velvet-voiced but not quite the elegant caricature he might be. On opening night, Melissa Oei’s charmingly hapless Adelaide was most forceful when she was most physically focused.
Bryan Pollock’s flexible set embraces the action with a cartoon stylishness of its own.
Theatre almost never gets this good, even in the big-ticket professional houses.