At the Seacoast Rep, an impressive staging of “Guys and Dolls” marks a new beginning
by Minta Carlson
It’s fitting that the Seacoast Repertory Theatre’s first production of the year is “Guys and Dolls.” Beneath the catchy songs and flashy dance numbers, “Guys and Dolls” is all about second chances, making your own luck, and, of course, falling in love. It’s an appropriate theme for the Rep, which is bouncing back from some financial difficulties with a new management team and an ambitious slate of shows for 2015. The show is a mission statement for the Rep’s renewal, and if this run of “Guys and Dolls” is any indication, the theater’s future is bright.
“Guys and Dolls” follows inveterate gamblers Nathan Detroit (Scott Caple) and Skye Masterson (Ryan Salvato) as they make bets and shoot craps on the streets of New York. Detroit, more devoted to his traveling craps game than his fiancé, Adelaide (Linette Miles), to whom he’s been engaged for 14 years, needs a pile of cash to secure a new location. He pegs Masterson, who’s always ready to take a bet, as an easy mark; Detroit challenges Masterson to take the pious Sarah Brown (Gabby Archambault), who runs the local Save-a-Soul Mission, to dinner in Havana, Cuba. The stakes: $1,000 — enough for Detroit to host his next game.
There are plenty of complications. Despite the bet, Masterson falls in love with Sarah; meanwhile, Detroit finds it harder to put off marrying Adelaide, who’s developed cold-like symptoms due to the prolonged engagement. And, of course, the cops are in hot pursuit.
Caple and Miles, both seasoned local performers, are completely believable as Detroit and Adelaide. Caple’s comedic timing is on-point throughout, and Miles is never a step behind. The two are a pleasure to see on stage together, especially during “Sue Me,” one of the couple’s most memorable numbers, where not only their chemistry, but also their combined vocal talents, are on full display.
The show is a mission statement for the Rep’s renewal, and if this run of “Guys and Dolls” is any indication, the theater’s future is bright.
Salvato also immediately commands a strong presence as Masterson, evoking a cool, Sinatra-esque attitude that makes his character stand out. Archambault pales slightly at the beginning of the play as Sarah, but the moment she first sings, she gleams. It’s no easy feat, as the duet “I’ll Know,” between Masterson and Sarah, is a historically difficult female soprano piece. Archambault not only brings her character to life, but appears to do so without effort. She’s a joy to listen to.
Though Sarah, Adelaide, and their wayward men drive the action, “Guys and Dolls” is an ensemble show, and director and choreographer Taryn Herman has put together a fantastic cast of supporting players. A clearly talented group of character actors, dancers, and singers, they enhance the show and keep up its momentum. Most notably, Jamie Bradley, Trevor Worden, and Chris Bradley all bring significant life and comedy to the stage. Jamie Bradley also leads a particularly strong rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”
The choreography, lighting design, and musical direction are not to be overlooked. Kathy Fink’s choice of employing a live horn and percussive ensemble instantly draws in the audience, and they stay exceptionally in sync with the action on stage. The lighting design by Bretton Reis subtly enhances each scene. The choreography is well-done throughout, and is especially striking during “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” Dancers such as Bartley Mullin, Brianna Stine, and Alden Caple further elevate the show.
An early performance, though, was not without its hiccups. There were a few set-change mishaps, and Adelaide’s psychosomatic cold symptoms didn’t appear until well into the show. And, while Mallory Rinker’s costumes mostly shine, there are a few scenes, such as those in Adelaide’s dance club, in which they’re clunky and distracting.
But, despite the missteps, most of which can be attributed to first-week wrinkles, this “Guys and Dolls” production is impressive. When it comes to luck, love, and salvation, there are always second chances. With “Guys and Dolls,” the Rep shows it may be at the start of a hot streak.
“Guys and Dolls” is on stage through March 8 at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, 125 Bow St., Portsmouth. Visit seacoastrep.org or call 603-433-4793 for tickets.