Ocean State's "Guys and Dolls" Is Hit And Miss

Jul 15, 2014

The cast performs “The Crapshooters Dance” in the musical comedy, Guys and Dolls
Credit Mark Turek

Well, yes it does. At the Ocean State in Warwick “Guys and Dolls” – admittedly one of my all-time favorite musicals – comes across as a bifurcated project. On the one hand there is still that marvelous score by Frank Loesser, songs that can break your heart and make you laugh out loud. Under music director Justin P. Cowan they are handled well by a cast of good singers who know how to offer a song without seeming to force it.

That's also true of the choreography by director Russell Garret who has his excellent dancers moving at top, and potential muscle-pulling speed on the admirable set by Bert Scott who also did the enhancing lighting.

So, what's not like? After all “Guys and Dolls” is taken from several of Damon Runyon's tongue-in-cheek, but not too far off, view of booming New York in the post - World War II era.

You'll perhaps remember that “Guys and Dolls” looks at a bunch of small-time mobsters looking for a place to hold an all-night crap game. Around them, are a tough-guy police lieutenant and a group of, shall we say, showgirls with the accent on “show.”

It's filled with what used to be called “gags.” The book, mostly by Abe Burrows and aided by Jo Swerling, sets up the bright-faced jokes beautifully.

But, let's face it. Some of them have become groaners in today's world.

“I's about psychology,” moans a withering Doll. “You haven't got that, have you!” says clueless Guy. Then, there's actually another one-liner about a long-forgotten automobile, the Studebaker, that you need to be a car-buff or an old-timer to understand.

The major problem here, I think, is that the cast and director Garrett have not played these time-important moments with a twinkle in the eye. When a character named Sky tries to seduce dear Sarah, the young missionary women, during a late- night dodge to the pre-Fidel Castro hotbox that was Havana, Cuba, there's no appreciation of the overall joke.

Sure, a rum-filled hot time in Havana might have gone over in 1950. But in our ragged, overdone time, its needs a gleam saying isn't-this-a-sweet-old-hoot, which isn't there.

But as I say there's still things to like. The large cast is vibrant and skilled. In the “Sit Down, Youre Rockin the Boat” number about a bunch of Dudes goin', maybe, to heaven is riotously funny. Kevin B. McGlynn plays Nathan Detroit with unforced verve.

Katie Clark sometimes goes overboard as the not-all-that-bright-but-ever-good-hearted Miss Adelaide. But she's also a hoot at times. And a community theater veteran, Brian Mulvey is wonderful singing that quintessential sweet grandfather song, “More I Cannot Wish You.”

Tom Andrew gives Sky a grounded sense as a tough guy with a perspective beyond most of the gambling dudes around him. Rochelle Weinrauch makes Sarah the missionary admirable and when she and Andrew combine on the captivating “I've Never Been in Love Before” you know why “Guys and Dolls” was a winner way back then.