THEATER REVIEW: For ‘Guys and Dolls,’ bet on Act II

Among the members of the cast in Guys and Dolls at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon through September 3 are (l to r) Olivia Bullock, Conner Milam, Liane Zielinski and Megan Koumis. Photo contributed

“Guys and Dolls” / Theater Barn

Act I:

NOT EVEN THE WONDERFUL Andrew Pace (as Nathan Detroit) can rescue the first act of Theater Barn’s “Guys and Dolls.” The opening cityscape is accompanied by a sickly piano riddled with wrong notes and wrong chords. The wrongs pop up throughout the show, and the piano, bass, and drums combo that performed so confidently in the company’s “Godspell” seems to have had a nervous breakdown. In the lobby after the opening performance, “Kill the piano player!” could be heard. Twice.

Act 1 of this musical is heavy on the characters of Sky and Sarah, played here by Nick Abbott and Katherine McLellan. It includes some beautiful Frank Loesser songs: “I’ll know (When My Love Comes Along),” “If I Were a Bell,” “My Time of Day.” Those songs need voice. For Sky, it should be a rich, robust baritone rather than a light-ish, almost tenor. As for Sarah, McLellan’s thin soprano, unsteady on the top, does not quite suffice. Abbott’s Sky is surfacey and unconvincing, and he and McLellan share very little heat.

Nathan (Pace) and his Adelaide (Katie Luke), on the other hand, are joined at the heart. Their 14 years together (including arguments) are loving. Luke carries the traditional character-voice of Adelaide to the octave above Z, sometimes making it difficult to pull down meaning, but she basically has a good grasp on Adelaide. Pace lives utterly in Nathan Detroit and it is worth more than the price of admission to watch him do it.

Costumes lack a point of view. Garb of the Hotbox girls is especially non-hot. However, sometimes Adelaide/Luke, in her confrontations with Nathan, appears looking luscious in a stunning candy-red outfit, including a candy-red purse.

Act II:

In the ensemble numbers, my eye is often drawn to particular dancer/singers. Megan Koumis, Nolan Baker, and the quirky Andrew Martinelli are admirable stick-outs.

In some productions, the song “More I Cannot Wish You” is a downer. Here, John Trainor as Grandpa Arvide retrieves it with warmth and simplicity. In another supporting role, Barby Cardillo as General Matilda makes a layered, attractive character out of not much script.

Finally, with Nathan & Adelaide’s “Sue Me” and Nicely-Nicely’s “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” we in the audience are reminded of what musical theater numbers are supposed to do. Yeah. That’s it.

Dances by choreographer/director Kelly Shook are mostly dulled by an intermediate-dance-class vocabulary; but with “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” Shook shows how a musical number ought to be staged. Tight vocal ensemble work (not always evident in Act I) appears. Paul Urriola, as Nicely-Nicely, grabs the moves and the notes and the energy and knocks our socks—and perhaps other items of our accoutrement—into the atmosphere. It’s theater. (Some things work in spite of the pit.)

“Guys and Dolls” runs through September 3. Reserve seats at 518-794-8989.

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