AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows
Directed & choreographed by Molly Bell
Presented by Broadway By the Bay
Fox Theatre
2215 Broadway St., Redwood City / (650) 579-5565

Reviewed by Judy Richter

You don't need a lucky roll of the dice to come out a winner at Broadway By the Bay's production of "Guys and Dolls."

Even though this musical has been around since its Broadway premiere in 1950, it remains fresh and vibrant in the creative hands of the versatile Molly Bell, who directs and choreographs this show.

With a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows based on short stories by Damon Runyon, "Guys and Dolls" features two contrasting love stories set in New York City in the late 1940s.

The first couple is comprised of gambler Nathan Detroit (David Mister), proprietor of the "oldest, established, permanent floating, crap game in New York," and Miss Adelaide (Mary Kalita), the featured singer-dancer at the Hot Box night club. She doesn't approve of gambling, but they've been engaged for 14 years.

The other couple has just met. The man is Sky Masterson (Jack Mosbacher), a footloose but successful gambler who's known to bet on almost anything. The woman is Sarah Brown (Kelly Britt), an earnest missionary at the Save-A-Soul Mission.

Trying to raise $1,000 to allow his crap game into an auto garage for a night, Nathan bets Sky that he can't convince Sarah to go to Havana with him. Nathan loses the bet, and of course Sky and Sarah are smitten until Sarah finds out about the bet.

Bets influence other plot elements, but all turns out well in the end. In the meantime, the audience is treated to a string of Frank Loesser's hit songs. Some of them include the title song along with "I'll Know," "If I Were a Bell," "A Bushel and a Peck," "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

The opening number, "Fugue for Tinhorns," might not be quite as familiar, but it's a real hit as staged by Bell and sung by three of Nathan's gambling buddies: Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Alex Rodriguez), Benny Southstreet (Adam Cotugno) and Rusty Charlie (Ryan Mardesich).

All four lead actors are highly appealing, especially Mister as the often flustered Nathan and Mosbacher as the determined Sky. Like the two men, Britt is a good singer. Kalita is a terrific dancer, but the character's dumb blond persona and fast-talking, heavy New York accent are detracting factors.

Among the supporting actors, Rodriguez, an accomplished dancer, is outstanding as Nicely-Nicely. He helps to lead the way in Bell's inventive choreography.

Musical director Dolores Duran-Cefalu's orchestra got off to a shaky start on opening night but redeemed itself thereafter. She also does a fine job of shaping the ensemble singing, especially the men in "The Oldest Established."

Margaret Toomey's set is simple and flexible, enabling quick scene changes, and many of her costumes, especially for the Hot Box Girls, are colorfully creative. Jon Hayward's sound design is effective even though an opening night glitch silenced Sarah's microphone in her "Marry the Man Today" scene with Adelaide.

Thanks in large part to Bell and a stellar cast, this is one of BBB's most successful outings in recent memory.

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