Wednesday, July 22, 2009

“Guy’s and Doll’s,” a Music Circus also-ran

Montego Glover and Matthew Ashford

Photo by Charr Crail

If you have no idea, or only a sentimental one, of what New York was like in the thirties through the fifties, you may wring delight out of the current Music Circus production of “Guys and Dolls,” running through July 26 at Sacramento’s Wells Fargo Pavillion.

Certainly it has its charms, with music by Frank Loesser­—including such favorites as “Follow the Fold,” “The Oldest Established,” “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Luck Be a Lady.”

A large and sharp professional cast, under Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge and choreographed by Bob Richard, give clearly defined character interpretations while maintaining a fast pace. Gary Beach offers us a smart Nathan Detroit, career gambling organizer; Heather Lee endures as Miss Adelaide, his suffering fiancée, who after 14 years still lies to her mother that the pair are married and have children; Matthew Ashford is suave as compulsive gambler Sky Masterson; and Montego Glover glows with righteousness as Sarah Brown, his Salvation Army dream girl.

The time is supposed to be the mid-fifties. The plot is based on three stories by tough-talking Damon Runyon, chronicler of New York in the thirties and forties, who died in 1946. For “Guys and Dolls” the result is a sentimental fantasy of a kind of cowboy New York. The show has a long history as a crowd pleaser, with a popular movie version headed by Frank Sinatra as Detroit and Marlon Brando as Masterson.

But in the current staged version some of the actors go through the motions energetically without really convincing us that they believe in their characters. What we get is something like The Three Musketeers played by the Marx Brothers. The two female leads and Ashford’s Masterson come closest to seeming real. Conrad John Schuck manages to conjure up a lovable Arvide Abernathy, Salvation Army soldier.

To give the show its due, after a solid “Thoroughly Modern Millie” followed by a smashing “Altar Boyz,” anything short of “Phantom of the Opera” performed by archangels would seem an anticlimax.

“Guys and Dolls continues at the Wells Fargo Pavilion. Performances are Wednesday at 8 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $41 to $53, are currently on sale at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by phone at (916) 557-1999. Tickets are also available online at or by calling (800) 225-2277. For groups of 12 or more call (916) 557-1198. For more information about the show and the season, please visit

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