A sure bet.
With director-choreographer extraordinaire Donna Feore at the helm, Guys And Dolls is a non-stop, in your face (in a good way) thrust, stage of energy-music-dance explosion at the 2017 Stratford Festival.
Who would’ve gambled that the Festival Theatre stage would be the perfect platform for Feore’s soulful and the athletic take on Broadway musicals? Remember A Chorus Line and The Sound of Music? Add Guys And Dolls to the sure-bet hits shaped by Donna Feore on the Festival stage… that she makes her own.
What’s all the talk about?
Guys And Dolls has two pairs of lovers. The men are gamblers and likely to bet on anything. The women are foolish enough to gamble on being able to change them. Devout and passionate are Sarah Brown (London-raised Alexis Gordon in a great performance) and Sky Masterson (Evan Buliung, with a hint of Marlon Brando’s 1955 big-screen take on the character). Comic counterpoint is provided by hoofer with a huge heart and voice Miss Adelaide (Blythe Wilson), and hustler running on empty Nathan Detroit (Sean Arbuckle).
Among the delights are Gordon’s soaring “I Know” and her intoxicated “If I Were A Bell.” It’s also pretty fun to see her toss her first Stratford punch.
Feore’s conception keeps Miss Adelaide (troubled by allergies which are possibly linked to Nathan’s endless postponement of their marriage) from sneezing and coughing too loudly, unlike Monday’s Twelfth Night audience which coughed forever.
But, back to Guys And Dolls..
The credits say the 1950 musical is based on Damon Runyon’s story and characters, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
But give big credit to Donna Feore for making it all such a joyful, loud triumph.
You don’t want to miss G&D because:
Such musical numbers as “Guys And Dolls,” “Take Back Your Mink,” “Luck Be A Lady,” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat” are song-and-dance heaven.
Those are plenty of reasons right there!
You might want to skip G&D if:
You hate Broadway musicals or are so taken with Salvation Army brass bands that the two-brass, one bass drum lineup on stage here offends your purist tastes
Now, inevitable #ldnont connections:
A friend of Alexis Gordon’s once reminded me of Alexis’s many Forest City ties — she was born and raised in London, sang for five years with Amabile, spent three years with Original Kids and attended Arva Medway High Schooi.
Meanwhile, Trevor Patt (Calvin, Gambler, Ensemble) was Jean Valjean in the Grand Theatre 2007 High School Project production of Les Miserables. Before that he was in West Side Story (HSP 2006) and Central’s 2007 production of Alice Through The Looking-Glass, directed by the acclaimed Ann [Macmillan] Bulger.
London ace Ellen Denny played Alice in that same production: right now, she is Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady at Port Hope until June 24.
Beal alum Mark Uhre (Benny Southstreet) had his first professional gig at the Grand with William Hutt in 1993’s A Christmas Carol. He then was in the very first High School Project production (1997-1998 Grand season) West Side Story, eventually acting for two years in the Toronto production of Mamma Mia and later on Broadway in Les Mis (thanks to Jeff Culbert for background).
Lastly, the concertmaster is London violin ace Mel Martin.
So now, we’ll see you in Stratford?
James Stewart Reaney keeps James’s Brander Newer Blogger at LondonFuse.ca as part of his volunteerism and reverence for London A&E. He recently retired from The London Free Press after more than 30 years covering everything from A — The Alcohollys — to B: baseball’s 1986 World Series. Follow his Twitter #ldnont thoughts via @JamesSReaney
Feature photo via the 1955, Joseph L. Mankiewicz production of “Guys & Dolls”