Veronica J. Kuehn (left) and Audrey Cardwell in "Guys and Dolls." Photo by Jim Cox
The dolls steal the show in the Old Globe Theatre’s gaily boisterous production of Guys and Dolls, staged in association with Sarasota, Fla.’s Asolo Repertory Theatre. As the principled missionary Sarah Brown, Audrey Cardwell (the most talented singer in the enormous cast) demonstrates a stirring operatic voice yet also shows she has comic chops in Sarah’s one unbuttoned scene – the dancing that becomes brawling on her and gangster Sky Masterson’s (Terrence Archie) quickie trip to Havana. Then there’s Veronica J. Kuehn as Miss Adelaide, long-suffering fiancée to crap-game organizer Nathan Detroit (J. Bernard Calloway). With the character’s squeaky vocal mannerisms and the beneficiary of the script’s choicest one-liners, Adelaide is a can’t-miss role, and the endearing Kuehn doesn’t miss. Not only that, her second-act-opening “Take Back Your Mink,” which finds Kuehn clad in a barely-there costume (one of the many perfect inspirations of designer Brian C. Hemesath), truly puts the hot in the Hot Box – the club at which Adelaide performs.
Though it dates back to 1950 and has seen countless productions since, Guys and Dolls is to this day a lovable show. Frank Loesser’s tunes – “Luck Be a Lady,” “The Oldest Established” (Nathan’s theme) and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” among them – are perennial audience pleasers. So are the show’s overdrawn but delightful characters inspired by the short stories of Damon Runyon. At the Globe, Calloway (the Globe’s Grinch the last two holiday seasons) comes up a winner as the hapless, good-hearted Nathan Detroit, as does Todd Buonopane in the plum supporting role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson.
Josh Rhodes, who previously directed Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery and choreographed Bright Star at the Globe, does double duty here, and though this is a long show with a couple of throwaway numbers, it never loses its big, Broadway fun. Lee Savage’s scenic design, too, is versatile and evocative of an old New York of neon, crayon colors and the nattily attired.
A point of full disclosure: Guys and Dolls is a personal favorite. ‘Even liked the ’55 movie with Brando as Sky Masterson.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat