If you live within striking distance of New Hope, Penn., you won’t want to miss the fantastic production of Guys and Dolls at the Bucks County Playhouse, on stage until August 12 (Box Office). Tickets may be hard to get, because the glowing reviews of this classic have prompted a bit of a run on them. Last Saturday afternoon, no one in the audience went away disappointed—even folks who know the score, truly, and have seen the musical multiple times.
It’s easy to forget how many great numbers this 1950 show contains: “If I were a Bell,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “More I Cannot Wish You,” and “Luck Be a Lady,” not to mention the comic numbers: “The Oldest Established (Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York),” “Guys and Dolls,” “Take Back Your Mink,” and the show-stopper, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” Under the direction of William Shuler, an orchestra of only six pieces makes a lot of music, and the choreographer has arranged several inventive and energetic dance numbers.
Because the story of the romances between Adelaide and her reluctant fiancé Nathan Detroit and between soul-saving Sarah and dedicated sharpster Sky Masterson are so well known, there’s no need to recap the plot. The characters are based on the comic tales of Damon Runyon, who chronicled the New York demi-monde of the 1920s and 30s.
Abe Burrows, Jo Swerling, and Frank Loesser turned this material into the Tony-award-winning musical. (The Burrows/Loesser team won a Pulitzer Prize for their How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and would have won it for Guys and Dolls, except for Burrows’s problems with the House Un-American Activities Committee.)
The production values—sets, costumes, choreography, music—are solid. Then there’s the cast. Other reviewers have commented on Lesli Margherita’s strong performance in the comic role of Adelaide. She captures Adelaide’s attempts at sophistication undercut by her fundamental brassiness perfectly, with a fine sense of timing, physical comedy chops, and a powerful singing voice. A surprisingly big voice also comes out of diminutive Elena Shaddow as Sarah. Steve Rosen (Nathan Detroit), beset by complications as well as his lady-love, is super, as are all the gamblers. Darius de Haas (Nicely-Nicely Johnson) brings down the house by rocking the boat.