KAYSVILLE — Guys and Dolls is a musical fable based on a story and characters written by Damon Runyon, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. This show revolves around four main characters, and their stories of love and hijinks. Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit are a pair of master gamblers in New York City in the 1940s. Detroit needs a home for his floating crap game, and Masterson has the means to bankroll the operation. They come up with a proposition that involves Sarah Brown, a missionary in the Save a Soul Mission and inadvertently play with the relationship between Detroit and Miss Adelaide, his perpetual fiancée and dancer at the Hot Box. The story brings color and mayhem to the Hopebox Theatre’s stage, directed by Carol Madsen.
The Hopebox Theatre has a unique mission, and for every show, they choose a member of their Kaysville community who is diagnosed with cancer and uses the production to raise money to donate to their treatment and needs. They maintain a low overhead cost so they can spend as little on production as possible and give as much money as they can to the recipient. To encourage donations, the theater’s lobby is filled with actors creating a casino atmosphere, where you can buy tickets to play a game of blackjack, spin a roulette wheel or shoot craps. These ticket sales can win you a small prize; it creates a fun atmosphere and all money goes to this production’s recipient, Margo Flint.
The opening number of the show highlights a trio of gamblers singing about the horse that is going to win the race and make them money. The introduction to the group of gamblers was well supported in the vocal work of Meish Roundy, Austin Stephenson and Darin Beardall. But, the song was harshly overwhelming with the cacophony of other actors on stage dancing around the trio and flashing newspapers and loudly colored costumes. This overview of the opening number is an accurate portrayal of the entirety of the show. The vocals and underlined dancing were strong and supported but overwhelmed by the number of ensemble members in the small space without much structure or direction.
As the show progresses, the audience gets a look into the life of this community of gamblers and their disapproving wives. Madsen has worked hard to create the community by pairing up men and women and having them spend most time on stage together. This puts a new feel in the show that primarily revolves around gambling or churchgoers, and this effect creates a middle ground for the group. The show itself has some elements written in that give a comic or cartoon-like feel to it, and the direction of the cast seems to lean hard into that feeling. Costumes were made up of loud colors and most background characters had a scoop of ‘silly’ thrown into the personality.
As far as couples, go, Sky Masterson (played by Damon Yanuey) and Sarah Brown (played by Samantha Wursten). are an odd combination, and the relationship is pivotal to the progression of the story. Wursten shows good character progression throughout the show, and has a clear voice, if not drowned out by music over her. Yauney portrays Masterson with a perfectionist style, but stiffly. Each movement and word seemed to be exactly what was directed but held back on breathing his own style into the character. The comical duo of Adelaide (played by Kristina Boler) and Nathan Detroit (played by Austin Horton) were a fun portrayal of the classic characters. Horton has a fun urgency to his character that helps show the chaos in which he lives. He has a wonderfully playful relationship with Boler, and they interact with each other very well. Boler plays Adelaide beautifully, and in a very human way. The character is written as a two-dimensional show girl, but Boler manages to breathe life into the character. Of special note is her performance in “Sue Me.” Boler shines as the fast-talking hot box performer while giving a real feel to the character, showing she has a softer meaningful side.
The highlight of this performance is that of Roundy as Nicely Nicely Johnson. Throughout the show, he gives a solid performance and is a strong supporting lead. There is never a question of if he will be there for his cues, or if he will be on pitch in his vocals. His standout performance came to a head as he enthralled the audience with his rendition of “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” in the second act. Roundy’s vocals and choreography held solid as he told his story through song.
The performance that the company put together was cute and fun in nature, several high points in the show but overall unimpressive as a group. If you are looking for a fun way to donate to a good cause, you will find that in this show. But you may be underwhelmed if you are looking for a highly polished production of Guys and Dolls.