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Friday, November 27, 2015

An Olney holiday hit, 'Guys and Dolls'

Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Tobias Young) and the cast of Olney Theatre Center's production of Guys and Dolls. (Photo: Stan Barouh)

The Olney has done it again.

And just in time for the holidays.  

The Maryland regional theatre has produced another sparkling musical for all ages to enjoy with non-stop action, song, and dance.

What better entertainment for the whole family?

Miss Adelaide (Lauren Weinberg) and the Hot Box Dolls in Olney Theatre Center's production of Guys and Dolls. (Photo: Stan Barouh)

It's Guys and Dolls, all about gangsters, love (what is a story without love?), and lots of humor.  Throw in a wedding or two, and a wedding dress that puts icing on the cake.

"Luck Be a Lady,"  "A Bushel and a Peck," "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" are some of the familiar tunes you'll find yourself humming at show's end.  Why, just to hear the title of the last makes me want to kick up my own heels and try some of those fancy steps.  (Good luck.)

It might have taken the script a while to get the ladies out on the floor, but here they came, giggly and flirty, adding glitter to a performance you know is going to be a lot of fun.

Oddly enough, the stars of the show are the male dancers who leap, kick, jump, and split legs mid-air in unison while wearing suits.  Under the direction of Michael Bobbitt, these ice-skaters on stage draw shouts of affirmation and guffaws from the audience, smitten by flawless conformity.

Not to discount the happy quintet of female dancers and their chatter, but it's the men folk who carry off the wonders of them all.

The singing is exquisite, led by the soaring Jessica Lauren Ball whose voice could carry a gangster to heaven. Miss Ball  plays the stern and inflexible Sarah Brown whose hairstyle and apparel (with necks no lower than a throat clasp) match her name and persona. (Rosemary Pardee dresses the characters in 1950s garb.)   

Ms. Ball's co-star, Matt Faucher, is exceptional in voice and delivery as well, and bears a strong resemblance to actor  Fred MacMurray (1908-1991).
Paul Binotto is a convincing Nathan Detroit and with a name like that, you need explanation? Lauren Weinberg, Miss Adelaide, is his giddy girlfriend of more than a decade, a delightful combination of Marilyn Monroe and Gracie Allen,  George Burns' ditsy dame

Naturally, the law in the form of wrinkled, open trench-coated, crooked glasses Lt. Brannigan (captured realistically by Ron Heneghan) is hot on the criminals' trail, including Big Jule's (Richard Pelzman) whose size is enough to send Brannigan under or over the bridge.  (Early on, Pelzman's heft grabs attention when the cast lays out the story's tone, and he comes on stage, a blind man with stick.  Look out!)
One of my favorite characters, although it's a minor role, was acted by Valerie Leonard, the authoritarian and strait-laced General Matilda B. Cartwright until she's swept off her feet by circumstances and joins the action, at least, for the dance number. (The hair stylist is not listed in the program but deserves recognition for timely coifs.) 

Daniel Conway skilfully designed the backdrop to camouflage the onstage orchestra which blends in well with New York's night and day cityscapes and changing skies. 

Olney's orchestra seems to get better with each show.  Timothy Splain is the music director and Doug Lawler conducts seven while he plays piano. 

There is reason for that constant smile and good cheer from Olney's artistic director Jason Loewith and theatregoers know why.

Give the people what they want: big shows, lots of dazzle, good for all ages, live orchestra, and skip the obscenities, if you will. Thank you very much! 

Give me theatre or give me theatre, and that's all she wants for Christmas.

The ensemble and cast includes Andre Hinds, Ethan Kasnett, David Landstrom, Tony Thomas, MaryLee Adams, Evan Casey, Ben Cunis, Leo Erickson, Jocelyn Isaac, Amanda Jillian Kaplan, Julia Klavans, Nurney, and Tobias Young.

Other key crew members are Jerry Whiddon, director; Colin K. Bills, lighting; Jeffrey Dorfman, sound; Nancy Krebs, dialects; Josiane M. Lemieux, production stage manager; and Debbie Ellinghaus, managing director.

Although I have already nominated Olney's The Producers for Helen Hayes Awards, more Olney nominations are in order for these Guys and Dolls:

Outstanding Musical

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Outstanding Director of a Musical: Jerry Whiddon

Outstanding Choreography in a Musical: Michael Bobbitt

What: Guys and Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Based on a story by Damon Runyon

When: (Update) Extended through January 3, 2016 at 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, with weekend matinees at 2 p.m., and Wednesday matinees, Dec. 2, 16, and 23, one Tuesday matinee, Dec. 22 and no shows on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

How much: Tickets start at $38, with discounts for military, groups, seniors, and students.

Duration: A little over two hours and one intermission.

Refreshments: Available for purchase and may be taken to seats.

Parking: Abundant, free, and on-site

For more information: 301-924-3400

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