OREM — “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” sings gambler Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. But really, it’s the audience that has the good luck in this production currently playing at the SCERA.
With a script by Joe Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys and Dolls tells the story of two gamblers, Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, as each of them deals with difficulties with their girlfriends, Sarah Brown and Adelaide, respectively. Set against a colorful backdrop of an idealized New York City in the mid-twentieth century, Guys and Dolls is an old favorite from the age of classic musicals and introduced songs like “Luck Be a Lady,” “Adelaide’s Lament,” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” to the musical theatre songbook.
Director David Smith has created a by-the-book production of Guys and Dolls, and his vision will please most longtime fans of the show. Smith excels at introducing locations and characters and ensuring that audience members understand what sort of person they are meeting or place that a scene occurs in. For example, I knew within seconds of meeting the characters about Sarah’s passionate belief in her mission, Adelaide’s frustration with Nathan, and the mood of the Cuban restaurant. The fun, unique atmosphere of the script is apparent in every scene, such as the stylized version of the streets of New York City or the Save-A-Soul Mission.
The shining star of this production is Corey Morris in the role of Sky Masterson. Morris avoids making Sky a smarmy sleazball, and instead plays him as the gangster with a heart of gold. This choice made the character endearing, and made me want Sky to succeed in courting Sarah, especially as he opened up emotionally during “My Time of Day.” Morris also has a smooth voice that is well suited to Frank Loesser‘s score. As Sarah, Cheyenne Lee gives a suitable performance. Lee has a knack for comedic timing, and her interactions with Sky were sweet as she played hard to get. Her best moment, though was in the reprise of “Marry the Man Today,” in which Sarah and Adelaide (played by Alyssa Orme) commiserate in their troubles with their men. Both Lee and Orme made the song terrifically fun with their characters’ scheming.
Orme also created a pleasing rendition of “Adelaide’s Lament,” which had equal measures of pathos and humor. When teamed up with Bryan Thacker as Nathan Detroit, she also mined the humor in the script effectively and never had a punchline fall flat. Thacker’s best scene was in his argument with Orme when their characters are backstage at Adelaide’s job, and his excuses for avoiding marriage for 14 years seemed plausible. Thacker also had a sweet performance in “Sue Me” as he showed his character’s unique love for Adelaide.
The supporting cast was an excellent component to this production, especially the male ensemble. Too often in amateur shows the shallower casting for men often means that the male ensemble is weaker than the female ensemble. However, in Guys and Dolls the SCERA has created a cast where the men’s performances equal—and often exceed—those from the women. This made songs like “Fugue for Tin Horns” and “Luck Be a Lady,” and “The Oldest Established” memorable. Smith’s music direction undoubtedly strengthened the ensemble’s performances.
Not only did this cast sound good, but they looked good, too. Kelsey Seaver‘s costumes popped with color, especially the suits worn by the male ensemble. This bright palette meshed perfectly with Shawn M. Mortensen‘s lively set with its purple streetlights, aquamarine newsstand, and brightly lit signs. Together, the set and costumes created a boisterous environment where the antics of the gamblers seemed entirely fitting.
This production’s flaws are few and too minor to interfere with a reasonable audience member’s enjoyment. Thacker’s 21st century hair was out of place in the otherwise perfectly planned visual environment, and Michael D. Young (in the part of Nicely-Nicely Johnson) failed to enunciate the lyrics of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” which reduced the impact of this second act highlight. And Steve Scholle is not intimidating enough as Big Jule to make the craps game in the sewer seem important. Despite these minor issues, Guys and Dolls is one of the most enjoyable productions at the SCERA in recent memory.
In conclusion, even though attending live amateur theatre can be risky, Guys and Dolls at the SCERA is no gamble. Longtime fans will appreciate the unflagging energy of this cast, and audience members who have never seen the show will understand why it has been a favorite for 65 years. So, “Follow the Fold” to the SCERA to catch this production.