Sky Masterson, Nathan Detroit, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Miss Adelaide, Miss Sarah Brown–these characters, brought to life in the Frank Loesser-Abe Burrows-Jo Swerling musical Guys and Dolls more than 60 years ago (and before that, of course, well-known from the Damon Runyon tales where they originate) have become old friends. We’re always glad to see them–whether they’re looking their best or not.
In the Manatee Players’ current production of this hit show, those characters sparkle intermittently rather than consistently. There are some strangely lifeless moments in this usually highly entertaining piece; too often, especially at the beginning, there just isn’t much juice to the whole thing. But the material itself is so filled with opportunities to succeed that some of the laughs and highlights do come through.
Much of the fun derives from the 14-year-long relationship between crap game master Detroit (John Andruzzi, in a nice turn as the always hustling Nathan) and nightclub gal Adelaide (Helen Holliday, who offers a strong comic rendition of her famous Lament about the psychological causes of her cold). They’re backed by some welcome energy from Mike Nolan as Nicely-Nicely (especially on the big Act II number, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat), menace for laughs from Michael McNabb as Big Jule, and a surprisingly touching Act II performance of More I Cannot Wish You from that Salvation Army stalwart Arvide Abernathy (Dan Mills).
As the couple whose bet-born romance hits its rocky points, Jessica Morrow as Salvation Army doll Sarah and Marc Lalosh as gambler Sky are not the most convincing pair, but that’s often the case with this duo. They do have their moments, as in the Act I closer I’ve Never Been in Love Before; Morrow sings well and acts cheerfully and Lalosh looks the part of Sky (thanks in part to his threads from designer Kris Grooms).
The staging by director Jared Walker occasionally feels too static, or maybe it’s just that we want things to move along faster to really snap, crackle and pop. But while it’s far from perfect here, Guys and Dolls can’t fail to entertain in some measure. The show continues through March 6 at the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre; call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com for tickets.