Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Guys & Dolls": A lively, tuneful, funny American classic

Bob Checchia, Lynne DeMers-Hunt and Nick and Stacia Smith are Nathan Detroit, Miss Adelaide, Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown in EPAC's "Guys and Dolls."

It's no surprise that Entertainment Weekly recently declared "Guys and Dolls" the most popular American musical of the past 100 years. It's no fluke that the show has been revived on Broadway nearly every decade since it opened in 1950. And it's no accident that this lively and tuneful musical has won a bushel-and-a-peck-full of Tony Awards over the years.

As part of its 2013 season of honoring American playwrights and composers, the Ephrata Performing Arts Center is presenting this high-energy, big-hearted show beginning tonight, on stage at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre.

Watching one of the final rehearsals of the show last week – a show I've seen many times on stage and on celluloid – I was reminded what a well-crafted, funny and thoroughly delightful show "Guys and Dolls" is.

I'm glad the cast couldn't hear me quietly singing along with every one of those catchy, clever Frank Loesser showtunes – from the title song to "Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat," and from "Adelaide's Lament" to "Luck Be a Lady."

And despite having seen this show so many times, I found myself laughing at a lot of the dialogue. I was surprised all over again by the clever conversations and assorted bon mots book co-writer Abe Burrows created for gambler Nathan Detroit, nightclub star Miss Adelaide and the circle of colorful characters with whom they pal around. And watching Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson meet cute, flirting as they swap Bible verses, is a delight.

As always, I was reminded how great this theater troupe is at wrapping its artistic heart around a well-worn American classic – putting that unique EPAC spin on the proceedings and bringing out new flavors in the piece. Under Ed Fernandez's direction, with choreography by Irving Gonzalez, this big, talented cast fills the stage with dancing gamblers and slinky “Hot Box Dolls,” marching missionaries and hot Havana couples gyrating to a Latin beat.

The Grand Themes of Relationships are played out in the main couples’ interactions: Nathan and Adelaide, a guy who can’t commit paired with a doll who can’t help lovin’ that man, along with Sky and Sarah, a case of opposites attracting.
 You’ll love the supporting characters, too, from gambler Nicely Nicely Johnson to Big Jule the Chicago thug to mission counselor Arvide Abernathy.

My advice: Even if you’ve seen “Guys and Dolls” before, open your heart to this EPAC production. It’s a feast for the eyes, the ears and the funny bone. And if you've NEVER seen this show before – what in the heck are you waiting for?

Call (717) 733-7966 to secure a seat in the theater and be thoroughly entertained with an American classic in the hands of a committed group of actors, crew and creative team members. Enjoy!

The show runs evenings through Aug. 10, with a matinee added on closing day.
Thanks to 12:34 MicroTechnologies for sponsoring the show; to Dr. Lew and Michelle Storb as opening-night sponsors, and to Drs. Karen and Evan Cooper and Dave Dierwechter and Marcia Stoner for sponsoring  the after party.

- Mary Ellen ("Merv") Wright