GUYS AND DOLLS by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, directed by Kelly Robinson, with Patricia Collins, Cynthia Dale, Bruce Dow, Sheila McCarthy and Scott Wentworth. Runs in rep to November 7. $51.65-$111.40, stu/srs discounts. Festival Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
They don't make musicals like Guys And Dolls any more. Nowadays you get earnest messages along with the tunes, or some wannabe sung-through opera sagging sadly under the weight of its serious intent. Guys And Dolls has no redeeming social value - that's why they call it a musical comedy. It's got hummable tunes, show-stopping song and dance numbers and a story with not very much emotional heft about gamblers trying to find a crap game and avoid love.
Call it a pure entertainment, and say the same for Stratford's new production, helmed by Kelly Robinson .
Twelve years after first playing the role at Stratford, Scott Wentworth brings the right world-weary sensibility to gambler Sky Masterson, who falls for uptight Salvation Army missionary Sarah Brown. Cynthia Dale sizzles as Sarah - you have never seen If I Were A Bell performed like this. Then again, I thought Dale was hot as Maria von Trapp.
But the real gold comes from the brassy song and dance numbers, staged by Michael Lichtefeld . Both of Miss Adelaide's cabaret tunes, performed by Sheila McCarthy for maximum laughs, are pure eye candy, the blockbuster Luck Be A Lady has some very cool moves, and Bruce Dow as Nicely-Nicely rips into a version of Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat that creates terrific visual lines.
A few quibbles. What's the damned rush? A show has to offer some quiet moments, to let us settle into it. This one careens along so quickly, you can barely catch your breath. I'll Know loses all its ballad qualities, and Dale and McCarthy sound like a sped-up tape recording in a positively frantic version of Marry The Man Today.
And all the women are too thin. That's entirely the wrong aesthetic for a musical set in the early 50s. Actually, it's disturbing no matter what the show's period.