BLUFFDALE — It is always a good night for Guys and Dolls, and the Bluffdale Arts Advisory Board did not disappoint. From the first bars of upbeat Broadway music (written, along with the lyrics, by Frank Loesser) and the bustling onstage action for the second half of the overture, it was clear this show would be memorable. I was amazed at the size of the cast for what I thought was a small community theatre. The group’s talent in directing, singing, and dancing pleasantly surprised me too.
As the actors told the story of gamblers interacting with righteous missionaries, they kept clear diction while speaking and harmonies while singing, making for a very enjoyable night. Directors Julie Fox and Melinda Severn made a good team, as I saw many things throughout the show that worked well. Several scenes were directed well, like when the gamblers created a half circle with some crouching in front during a scene, or the men pantomiming during the song “Marry the Man Today,” to show what the woman wished her men would become. My favorite part, by far, was when the gamblers come out of the mission one at a time and scatter like terrified bunnies.
Choreography seemed to be an intense endeavor, and Kerry and Malinda Severn took the job on together. I thoroughly enjoyed how the choreography incorporated every person in the large cast. which made the songs that much more powerful. These volunteer actors did well at keeping the timing and staying together, and I could tell they had put a ton of time into getting the dances right. I also enjoyed the Havana scene, where individual couples took turns dancing. Everyone had big smiles and performed their dance well.
The set was somewhat minimal, but they used it well. Set designer Laura Gardner had the backdrop lit up with different colors that added to the mood of the scene. I enjoyed the orange backlight for Havana and the green for the sewers. I also liked the simple things they used for the shorter scenes, like a park bench. The scene changes were faster that way and for a longer show like this, that was a blessing.
The script for Guys and Dolls (written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows) has many great lines, and the actors excelled at their comedic timing. I loved how Brittany Weidauer played Miss Adelaide as less of a silly character and instead as a sympathetic, heartbroken woman. Her song “Adelaide’s Lament” was so funny, albeit with a bit too much pantomiming for my taste. However, her excitement at getting married was contagious. Paul May had confidence, volume, and diction while playing Nicely Nicely Johnson. His talent let me enjoy his clever lines, but he did not fall into the trap of trying to be too funny in a funny part, which was so refreshing.
Emily Voorhees made a great Sarah Brown; she not only could hit those high notes as clear and beautifully as a bell, but was able to crescendo into a powerful end. She also played “drunk” and pulled it off expertly. Jake Hart was less convincing as an actor, but he was able to impress more with his powerful voice. His singing was full of emotion, and he seemed more confident while singing, which made his character stand out among the crowd. I wish his solo in “Luck be a Lady Tonight” would have had clearer blocking because it seemed like he was standing around a lot during that song, which made it feel too long. Finally, Nate Hallett was a fantastic actor in the role of Joey, and his charisma made me wish he had been given more lines.
What made Guys and Dolls so endearing was the effort and energy put forth by the cast. I could tell they loved the show and loved the audience. They gave it their all, which is always worth seeing in any performance, but especially here where they had such skilled directors to help cast members with less acting and singing skill to improve their performances. I was very impressed with this group and would be happy to enjoy another show from Bluffdale any time.