Saturday, March 7, 2009

Guys and Dolls

From my seat in Row D, I was absolutely fascinated by how much Lauren Graham’s eyes sparkle. Unfortunately that’s about the only place you’ll find any sparkle in this lackluster revival of Guys and Dolls at the Nederlander Theatre.

For the most part the performers have lovely voices, but except for Kate Jennings Grant (in photo) as Sarah Brown none of the main characters seems to be even trying to inhabit their parts. It’s as if they’ve come in to record the cast album, not act in a Broadway musical. Director Des McAnuff fails to produce much chemistry, but at least Frank Loesser’s songs are rendered beautifully.

The weakest member of the cast is Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit. I can think of no reason why he was chosen for this major role except that he has a following from his portray of Oliver Babish in “The West Wing.” He has neither a good singing voice nor magnetism, and it’s completely unbelievable that Graham’s Miss Adelaide would be at all attracted to him, much less be engaged to him for 14 years.

Graham also is miscast, again possibly getting the job because of her television following from her years as Lorelai on the popular “Gilmore Girls” series. So fresh and pretty, she looks more like a debutante than a show girl, even though she can shimmy with the best of them. She has a beautiful voice, but her acting is flat.

Craig Bierko as Sky Masterson also seems to be phoning it in, which is disappointing because he was so fabulous as Professor Harold Hill in the 2000 revival of The Music Man.

I did enjoy Tituss Burgess as Nicely Nicely Johnson, and it was good to hear his extraordinary voice again. He sang at Broadway Blessing two years ago and was a real powerhouse.

Guys and Dolls, which is based on characters created by Damon Runyon, won five 1951 Tony Awards, including the one for Best Musical. The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is alternately funny and corny.

In general, the evening is entertaining, just not up to Broadway standards performance-wise. This is too bad because set designer Robert Brill did a terrific job of creating 1930s New York street scenes, complete with a subway car that rolls by, Dustin O’Neill provided great video designs, Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is lively and costume designer Paul Tazewell’s flashy costumes are a delight. Lighting designer Howell Binkley and sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy also produce Broadway-quality work. Music director Ted Sperling and orchestrator Bruce Coughlin bring to life the classic score, which includes "Fugue for Tinhorns," "A Bushel and a Peck," "If I Were a Bell," "Adelaide's Lament," "I'll Know," "Guys and Dolls," "More I Cannot Wish You," "Luck Be A Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

Tickets for Guys and Dolls may be purchased by calling (212) 307-4100, visiting or from the Nederlander Theatre box office, located at 208 W. 41st St.

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