"Guys and Dolls" From Underground to Sky High at WBT

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 7:00 am By: Bill Primavera

When I was at my youngest and most impressionable, it was the movie “Guys and Dolls,” the musical love story with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Stubby Kaye, set among the saints and sinners of New York City, that inspired me to live there one day. It wasn’t until some years later, as I “did” Broadway as one arm of my plan to turn a country hick into a city slicker, that I learned that the original theater version of “Guys and Dolls” is probably the best“book” musical ever created. Having seen two revivals of the show on Broadway, I can recommend the high energy production currently playing at Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) in Elmsford as one that holds its own in the face of its redoubtable parentage.

Based on two stories by Damon Runyon, it features a plot of bad but lovable guys and the good girls who indeed love them, but try to change them. With Nathan Detroit, the kingpin of a floating crap game, and Miss Adelaide, a performer starring at the Hot Box nightclub, it’s been a long, drawnout process over a 14-year engagement. With Sky Masterson, a Grade A gambler, and buttoned up Sarah Brown, who manages a Broadway Save-a-Soul mission, it all happens in a one-day trip to Havana masterminded by Masterson to win a bet that he could take out any girl he sets his sights on. The interplay among the gamblers is endearing as they ply their illegal trade underthe nose of the police in the most ingenious ways, rolling dice in such diverse, secret locations as behind the police station, at P.S. 84, down in the sewer and, finally, in the backroom of the mission.

With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, who for years had created some of Hollywood’s best musical scores, “Guys and Dolls” features both highly comic ditties,such as “Adelaide’s Lament” claiming that a relationship without marriage can produce psychosomatic symptoms in a girl, like a cold, and the Hot Box specialty number, “Take Back Your Mink,” where the girls accept lavish gifts from guys, only to give them back when they find what is expected in return. There are also truly beautiful melodies in such songs as “I’ll Know,” “My Time of Day” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.”This production is populated by solid actors who can sing and fantastic dancers who can act. Courtney Glass as Sarah Brown has a voice that is pure as a bell. Gary Lynch plays Sky Masterson with a perfect balance between heel and convert who eventually joins the mission as a lieutenant and marries Sarah in the finale in a SaveA-Soul uniform. (This bit was reversed in the movie with Stubby Kaye joining the mission rather than Marlon Brando. Who would accept Marlon Brando as a missionary banging a drum on Broadway?

Adelaide is sweetly sketched by Allie Schauer following the personality template established by Vivian Blaine, both on Broadway and in the movie-- a New York twang that is beyond anything heard in Brooklyn or the Bronx. My favorite scene in the show has always been between Sister Sarah and Adelaide when two opposites agree that the best solution to their love problems is to “Marry the Man Today” (and “change his ways tomorrow”). The standout character in this show is Jayson Elliott who plays Nicely-Nicely brilliantly, both by his God-given physical characteristics and his comedic ability. From his first appearance singing “Fugue for Tinhorns” until he brings down the house--or the mission--with his hallelujah testimony in “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” he’s a scene stealer. Somebody call the police or give him a TV pilot!

From the downbeat of the orchestra led by Jihwan Kim to the final curtain--without a curtain--this show boasts incredible energy. I would like to give special kudos to the dancing. I don’t know how or where WBT recruits its dancers, but what a job they do under the direction of Richard Stafford. The girls are leggy and precise and the guys, wow, what agility.You can catch the energy and hilarity of this high-spirited

“Guys and Dolls” until June 13. For show dates, times and ticket prices, call 914-592-2222 or visit www.BroadwayTheatre.com.