Lake Worth Playhouse Proves “Guys and Dolls” Is Still Worth Gambling On

So, what am I going to say about Guys And Dolls this time? 

I’ll admit that it did cross my mind at one point during my viewing of the Lake Worth Playhouses version of this long-lived classic that I may have already exhausted my supply of potentially insightful remarks, since I reviewed a different production of the show only a few months back!

Truth be told, I was actually in a production of this particular play during my freshman year of high school, so I was already more-than-usually familiar with it even last time around; and yet between the catchy songs, clever script, and fundamentally compelling story, I still correctly figured that seeing another version of this gambling-themed musical would be making a safe bet for another lovely evening.

And since this is also another show that’s well-known enough that I can probably get away without re-summarizing, I guess I’ll get to the point! Directed and choreographed by Joanne DePrizio, this production more or less treads the established path rather than offering up any twists on the winning formula; but a serviceable cast with a few standout members bring enough life to the old standard to make the show a consistently entertaining one. For instance, Matthew Schenk’s likable energy and natural portrayal helps make central “no-goodnik” Nathan Detroit easy to root for, and JB Peters as his long-time fiance Adelaide gives her character plenty of personality and hits some excellent comedic beats. 

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Robinson showcases a stunning soprano in the role of Sarah Brown while also conveying the character’s overall persona of a prim and proper church-goer who eventually lets down her guard. And while Ryan Stender doesn’t seem to have quite the stage presence one might want from a character as seductive as his Sky Masterson is supposed to be, he’s still a strong enough singer to pleasantly take us through the character’s solo numbers.

Aside from these leading players, Billy Vitucci and Danny Distasio are also essential to some of the show’s comedy as some of Nathan’s gambling buddies, and Marci Robin’s portrayal of the General who comes to check up on Sarah’s mission also stood out as particularly expressive. 

Ardean Landhuis’s set and Jill Williams’ costumes also successfully worked to create the show’s visual world. And though most of the show’s choreography was more in the realm of “effective” than “noteworthy”, there were at least a few moments where things got exciting, such as when Sky and Sarah join in on the dancing during their trip to Havana, or when the Hot Box dancers took off one more layer than I expected during number “Take Back Your Mink.”

Of course, a show this dated is almost bound to run into the occasional misstep as far as aligning with modern values, which I mostly noticed in terms of Sky’s persistence in pursuing Sarah despite her continual rejection of his advances. Probably, there’s also a sense in which the play’s portrayal of the usually principled Sarah completely changing her tune after Sky coerces her into a few shots of Bacardi is at least a little problematic. 

Yet, at least in my experience, her liquor-fueled change of heart is more realistic than how the scene ends: with Sky taking her home out of respect for her dignity rather than taking any advantage. This, perhaps, makes the show less dated in a bad way than dated in a sad way; and there’s a sense in which there’s something almost fairy-tale-like in the idea of a leading man who has all the bad boy appeal but then proves the good guy in the end. 

In fact, besides the visiting mobster Big Juleswho, in the end, doesn’t even follow through on any of his threats —it’s interesting to note that Guys and Dolls is free of any real menace, with even the “no-goodnik” gamblers wanting merely to be able to shoot their crap in peace rather than anything more sinister.

The unfolding of the show’s two love stories and Nathan’s schemes still gives the show plenty of narrative momentum, so maybe what I’m trying to say is that maybe that’s part of the magic of it, the appealing nostalgic glow. In any case, there are far worse ways to escape the perils of this century than by winding your way back a few decades into Guys and Dolls’ charming version of the fifties; so, if you feel like betting on this production yourself, there’s no reason not to roll the dice and grab a ticket before this February 5th!

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