Thursday November 23rd 2017

“Guys and Dolls”

Over 60 years ago, Musical Theater history was made when “Guys and Dolls” a musical fable based on the characters of Damon Runyan opened on Broadway. This multi award winning show with Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling ,truly left its mark on Broadway. After all, the characters in this epic are the people of Broadway; the gamblers, the sinners, the showgirls and the seedy side that in the end gets “religion”. Runyon wrote many tales and in his articles, the characters of the street became real to the readers. In “Guys and Dolls” these characters are even more real as we get to know them and despite their lifestyle get to care about them and for them. Imagine a gambler, Nathan Detroit ( most productions use the H as Nathan- I prefer the original Natan pronunciation) played with just the right touch by Norm Boucher, who runs a floating crap game as a living. His fiance is Miss Adelaide ( the pert and sexy Angie Stemberg) a singer at the Hot Box Club. They have been engaged for 14 years. Nathan’s cronies, Nicely-Nicely Johnson ( an incredible job by J. Chris Baum) and Benny Southstreet ( Frank J. Paul) are his go-fers spending their time lining up the games and the gamblers. Right now, the heat is on and so when Nathan can’t get a spot, he tries towin a bet with one of the greatest gamblers in the world, Sky Masterson ( deftly handled by Robert Hunt, who needs to wear a different hat so his face is not in shadows most of the play) in order to stake his game. The bet is for Sky to take the Save-a-Soul Mission leader, Miss  Sarah Brown ( newcomer Caroline Kobylarz who is sure to become a familiar name in the Chicago area theater scene- she has all the right moves and a voice that was made for these songs) to Cuba. Her job is to clean up the streets of New York; to rid Broadway of the gamblers and bums and as it turns out with his help she gets it done.

This is a fun show that truly showcases what musical comedy is supposed to be; great songs,” “I’ll Know”, “My Time Of Day”, “Luck Be A Lady”. “Sit Down, You’re Rockin The Boat ( Baum truly rocks with this show stopping number), “Guys and Dolls” and the beautiful “More I Cannot Wish You” ( handled with the soft touch of veteran Jim  Sherman as Arvide Abernathy; great characters and a powerful ensemble. Directed by Willima Pullinsi and Choreographed by Linda Fortunato, this production brings back some fond memories. I have done the show on several occassions and of course seen countless productions. This one has a freshness to it that one can feel comes from the cast and their energy. It is hard sometimes to do a show that is over 60 years old and make it seem fresh. The younger people in tonight’s opening night audience truly enjoyed what they saw and “got it”- this is due to the production team that works as a family to make sure the audience walsk away feeling good. You will!

William Underwood and his orchestra, while hidden behind the set, bring us the great sounds of the music never overpowering the actors onstage and jack Magaw has created a workable set in the limited space. I would have liked to see the sewer scene just a little more sewerlike, but that might have caused to much time between scenes. Brenda Winstead’s costumes are timely and the lighting by Denise Karczewski along with the sound by Rick Sims help to make this classic work on the stage at Theatre At The Center in Munster, Indiana. Every little detail is sheer perfection. From the wigs ( Kevin Barthel) to the props( Libby Fandrei and the violence design (R & D Choreography) to the sold ensemble. As most of you know, I truly believe that the ensemble in a musical can make-or-break a show- this is a “make” ensemble with some quality “character actors”: Zack Zube,Stephen M. Genovese,Brian Rabinowitz,Kathleen Campbell Gibson and Peter Verdico ( a great Big Julie, from East Cicero,Illinois)

Over the last several years, the drive to Munster, Indiana has been one that is more than getting gas and smoke at a lower cost; it has become getting enjoyable theater at an affordable price just 30 or so minutes from the loop “Guys and Dolls” will continue through October 16th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.,Sundays at  2:30 p.m. and there are also some Saturday matinees ( check )  Tickets range from $36-$40 ( as I stated VERY affordable) and can be purchased by calling 219-836-3255, visiting or by calling 800-511-1552

Theatre At The Center is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster just off I-80/94 at the Calumet Rd Exit) with loads of free parking. Once you visit, I am sure you will return. There are plenty of dining spots in the area, so come early and enjoy Munster (almost a suburb of Chicago).

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