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'Guys and Dolls' - Review

The Whole and the Parts of Broadway’s ‘Musical Fable’

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham

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Despite wonderful performances from the leads, something doesn't quite add up in the revival of this Broadway classic.

What This Show is About

Guys and Dolls is classic Broadway.

In Guys and Dolls, a 1950 musical drawn from two short stories by Damon Runyon, we meet loveable thugs and their long-suffering dolls. Nathan Detroit runs the “oldest established permanent floating crap game” in New York. He is desperately seeking a place to play while simultaneously striving to keep his fiance of 14 years from becoming his wife.

To get $1,000 required to secure the Biltmore Garage as the location of his game, Nathan bets high-roller Sky Masterson that Sky can't get the Save-a-Soul Mission's leader, Sarah Brown, to go to Havana with him for dinner.

Around that premise is wrapped some of the best music you'll ever hear including, “Guys and Dolls,” “Luck Be a Lady,” and “Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat.”

What You'll Like About 'Guys and Dolls'

Without exception, the performances in the principal roles are outstanding.

Craig Bierko, who was Tony-nominated for a revival of The Music Man, is Sky. He's got the look, the “not as bad as he'd like to appear” demeanor, and a great voice. Kate Jennings Grant has a lovely soprano and a great presence, morphing from prim “Mission Doll” to liquored and loosened up human being. As Nathan Detroit, Tony-nominee and movie star Oliver Platt is completely believable as a ne'er-do-well who does, in fact, do well. And then there is former Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham who does a great turn (and has a surprisingly powerful belt) as Miss Adelaide.

Even the smaller featured roles of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, played by Tituss Burgess, and General Cartwright, with Broadway vet Mary Testa, deliver the goods.

But despite all this firepower, something feels like it's missing from this show.

The Sum of the Parts

In this version of Guys and Dolls, it somehow feels that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. There's a difficult-to-define energy missing.

Tony-winning director Des McAnuff certainly knows what he's doing. Jersey Boys proves that. Even the changes he made – setting the show in the '30s instead of the late-40s, changing the set-in-stone opening to reflect a little grittier time, and including a “Damon Runyon” character who watches and learns from the goings on – don't detract from the show.

It's playing to full houses. The night I attended the audience was appreciative. The stars shine. I'm glad I saw it. But I wish this Guys and Dolls had more “it” to see.

Where and When

  • Nederlander Theatre
    208 West 41st Street
  • Show Times and Tickets
  • Previews: February 5, 2009
  • Opening: March 1, 2009
  • Closing: Open-ended run
  • Genre: Musical
  • Advisories:
    Appropriate for all ages
    Simulated gun fire/violence

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