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Guys and Dolls

Leslie Kritzer leads a strong cast in Barrington Stage's revival of Frank Loesser's beloved musical. logo
Leslie Kritzer and Morgan James in Guys and Dolls
(© Kevin Sprague)
Can we just assign Leslie Kritzer all the comic female leads in the musical theater canon? The Broadway veteran is definitely the gem of Barrington Stage's generally shining revival of the beloved Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls, putting her own stamp on the adenoidally challenged, perennially affianced Adelaide, star chanteuse of the Hot Box nightclub.

The entire cast of the production is quite strong, including Michael Thomas Holmes, who makes an optimal comic foil for Kritzer as Adelaide's marriage-averse paramour, gambler/entrepreneur Nathan Detroit. Playing the low-level macher with a distinctly Jewish, urban edge, Holmes manages to convey a sense of sweet romanticism, while nimbly dodging Adelaide's entreaties to settle down.

As the show's other female lead, Morgan James makes for an exemplary Sarah Brown, the seemingly prissy missionary on a soul-saving mission. Employing her solid high register to establish a woman who is both strong and determined, James is perfectly primed to go adorably giddy when Sarah meets her match in sexy gambler Sky Masterson (the smoldering Matthew Risch).

Agreeing to accompany Sky on a Cuban jaunt in exchange for his promise to increase attendance at her Times Square mission, Sarah finds her passage down the primrose path eased by a steady stream of Bacardi-laced dulce de leche -- but with or without the alcohol assist, the hot Latin dance sequence choreographed by Joshua Bergasse would put just about anyone in the mood.

Moreover, the male dancers dazzle anew in the show's famed sewer scene, so much so that you wonder whether some of the multiply back-flipping young men might have been hired straight out of a circus.

It's a tribute to the astute casting and to John Rando's equally attentive direction that all the old standards read as if fresh, especially Risch's intense rendition of "Luck Be a Lady." The only song that's slightly underwhelming is Nicely Nicely's "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," which fails to ignite despite Daniel Marcus' strong delivery. The fault may lie with the smallish orchestra (only eight musicians) under conductor Darren Cohen's unflaggingly spirited direction.

Space and budget constraints may be to blame, as well, for Alexander Dodge's uncharacteristically mingy set, but Alejo Vietti more than compensates with spot-on mid-century costumes that celebrate an era when women celebrated their natural assets.

The production's greatest strengths all come together in Kritzer's deliciously ditsy turn in "Take Back Your Mink," and she and James have another resplendent moment when they join hands -- and voices -- in plotting to embrace each of their fixer-upper true loves in "Marry the Man Today."

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