Guys and Dolls

guys and dollsThe time is 1950. You are in New York City. And you’ve got a lady friend to flatter. What do you do?

Fast forward to 2016. You are now in the Steel City. Same situation. How can you win over a doll’s heart?

The answer to both questions is surprisingly the same: take her to the hottest show in town–in both cases–Guys & Dolls! 

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Joel Hurt Jones (Nathan Detroit), Quinn Patrick Shannon (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Gavan Pamer (Benny Southstreet)

Premiered on Broadway in 1950, with music by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, this classic American musical is now the opening Act for Pittsburgh Public to kick off another great year of theater in 2016. Winner of Tony Award for Best Musical and also known as one of the most popular choices for revivals and local productions, this show has everything that a great American musical can offer: comedy, dazzling choreographies, and great Broadway show tunes.

Originally based on the writings of Damon Runyon, Guys & Dolls is a story about New York City in the 1950s—gamblers are conquerors of the club scenes during the night, Christian salvation armies running around the street trying to save souls, and of course there is always the “oldest established permanent floating crap game” going on somewhere in the city. With everything centered on a bet and a goal to find the location to host the next crap game, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’s stage adaption plot is always going forward with a book full of great humor and twists. Frank Loesser’s timeless score is filled with warmth. And with the enchanting voices of the wonderful casts, you will feel like you are traveling back in time again to that magical Golden Age, the minute the lights go down in the house.

With a cast as singular as the nominees of the Academy Award this year, talents at Pittsburgh Public are always top-notch. And this production is no exception. The “Doll” of Guys & Dolls, missionary Sarah Brown, is played by the wonderful Ms. Kimberly Doreen Burns, who was just “danced all night” in last year’s My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle. With a beautiful voice and a stunning range, she gives this role a great depth without losing the diversity and internal conflict of Runyon’s original character. Her “love and hate” interest in the show, the infamous gambler Sky Masterson, was played by CMU alumnus Mr. Charlie Brady, who managed to deliver the ultimate “bad guy” character in the show that we all love and root for. The first love duet “I’ll Know” between the two is no doubt one of my favorite moments of the night.

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Stephanie Maloney, Kimberly Doreen Burns (Sarah Brown), Charlie Brady (Sky Masterson), Joe Jackson

Along the side is Mr. Joel Hurt Jones playing the main protagonist Nathan Detroit. This role is always kind of the “weight” of the entire show as he is the focal point of the plot. From Frank Sinatra to Nathan Lane, the casting of this role will usually decide the proportion of romance versus comedy in the entire production. And Mr. Jones did just that by giving us a character that we all truly care about while enjoying his struggles and wondering how the great Nathan Detroit can always turn out just fine. His doll in the show–night club performer Miss Adelaide whom he’s engaged to for 14 years, was played by Ms. Kirsten Wyatt, who is absolutely the comedic support of the show. Every time she sings she steals the scenes. Her sneezy and brilliant solo number “Adelaide’s Lament” took home the most laughter of the night.

The supporting casts in this production also deserve all the applause. Mr. Tony Bingham unleashes his comedic side as Lt. Brannigan in this story. Mr. Larry John Meyers’s Arvide Abernathy, aka the Grandpa, will make you think that he’s truly the “Dumbledore” of the Save-a-Soul Mission. Mr. Jerry Gallagher played the Chicago gangster Big Jule with a “ground breaking height”. And finally with his great energy, Mr. Quinn Patrick Shannon, who played the Nicely Nicely Johnson, will be sure to tell you to “Sit down, sit down, you’re rocking the boat!” (pictured below) PPTGuysAndDolls082

Directed by the Artistic Director of Pittsburgh Public Theater Ted Pappas himself, this production added a refreshing new sound and look to this aged material and proved that truly great theater does stand against the test of time. Although without your typical big glamorous opening, it felt slowly warming up until the first group number. But once the suspense is established, the game is on! The major musical highlights of the evening are definitely the duets, which are all great character development moments and filled with the actors’ brilliant chemistry and exquisite dynamic on stage. And with Mr. Michael Schweikardt’s breath-taking set design and Mr. Kirk Bookman’s gorgeous lighting, you’ll just know you’re in for a great classic musical show!

Guys & Dolls is another one of those “Pittsburgh Public plus Ted Pappas” shows that you know you simply can’t miss. And now with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you bet you will have a great time!

The show runs until February 28th. Thanks to Pittsburgh Public Theater for the complimentary tickets. Please check out www.ppt.org for seasonal and ticketing information.