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Guys and Dolls

Christian Hoff and Richard Kind shine in the Ogonquit Playhouse's otherwise so-so production of the classic Frank Loesser musical. logo
Richard Kind, Liz Larsen, Christian Hoff,
and Glory Crampton in Guys and Dolls
(© Ogunquit Playhouse)
In the Ogunquit Playhouse's current production of the classic Frank Loesser-Abe Burrows musical Guys and Dolls, William Ivey Long's eye-poppingly garish costume designs and Tony Walton's playful painted flats -- both resurrected from Jerry Zaks' award-winning 1992 Broadway revival -- aren't the only elements that feel borrowed. Little original thought seems to have gone into Steven Beckler's production, which seems content to coast on the audience's fond memories.

Fortunately, the two male leads rise well above the direction. Tony Award winner Christian Hoff is a bantam, Cagneyesque Sky Masterson. Where many an actor tackling the role of the seemingly hard-hearted gambler might rely on broad shoulders and a matinee-idol profile, Hoff's edge is intellectual. It's smarts that earned this Masterson his peers' respect. His ever-calculating brain is also his foremost means of seduction (although his warm singing voice doesn't hurt). As Nathan Detroit, the marvelous Richard Kind is quirkily expressive -- a comic mensch who is vigorously juggling the lemons that life lobs his way.

On the surface, Glory Crampton makes an ideal Sarah Brown, with her military bearing and punitive mien. Leading with her forehead, near cross-eyed in her zeal, she starts out set on fault-finding mode. It's when she starts to sing -- backed by a rather lackadaisical seven-member orchestra under Ken Clifton's baton -- that matters go amiss. Crampton is one of those forceful sopranos who just aren't well suited to the delicacy of a song like "I'll Know."

As the adenoidal Miss Adelaide, Liz Larsen comes across more matron than chorine; with her Gracie Allen delivery and minimal dancing chops, it's hard to picture Larsen as a hot-property headliner. Moreover, her Adelaide doesn't augur domestic bliss; she promises to be a handful to any man -- and in fact, the scene in which she batters Nathan is among this show's most dramatically charged, outshining both the traditionally show-stopping "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

The other performers seem to be having fun -- as will theatergoers who go into this production with the appropriate expectations.

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