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‘Guys and Dolls’ at the Bonstelle Theatre is a sure bet

Guys and Dolls at The Bonstelle Theatre -- a great production of a classic American musical comedy. Jackson McLaskey sings with Kelly Robinson.
Guys and Dolls at The Bonstelle Theatre -- a great production of a classic American musical comedy. Jackson McLaskey sings with Kelly Robinson.Courtesy of Bonstelle Theatre

Guys and Dolls at The Bonstelle Theatre

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Guys and Dolls” may well be the perfect American musical. Where other shows are happy to have one hit song or memorable tune, this classic is packed with them – “Luck Be A Lady,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “If I Were a Bell,” “Sue Me,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and of course, the title song. The lyrics are clever and keenly crafted to suit the post WWII smalltime underworld characters who people this play – polite wise guys who would never swear in front of a nice broad.

Nathan Detroit's floating crap games ends up in the NYC sewers in The Crapshooters Dance
Nathan Detroit's floating crap games ends up in the NYC sewers in The Crapshooters DanceCourtesy of Bonstelle Theatre

The Bonstelle Theatre production of “Guys and Dolls” opened this weekend and runs through April 19, 2014, and it’s a sure bet for a swell night on the town.

Based on a mash-up of Damon Runyon stories, “Guys and Dolls” features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser with a wonderful book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The play originally opened on Broadway in 1950, where it won five Tony Awards and ran for three years. It has enjoyed a steady stream of revivals on Broadway and around the world and was made into a Hollywood spectacular starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine in 1955.

“Guys and Dolls” is a big show, with a big cast, a big score and a few big production numbers. It has lots of exuberant dancing, multiple scene changes, tricky regional and cultural accents, and all the dramatic demands that make it expensive for small professional theatres to produce. So, you can thank the theatre gods that these features also make “Guys and Dolls” a perfect vehicle for showcasing the talents of the WSU Department of Theatre and Dance. Director Michael J. Barnes makes sure everyone in his young company has a chance to prove what they’re capable of – and the results are most impressive. Additionally, this show affords a perfect swan song for the Bonstelle Theatre Company’s 2014 graduating class.

Seniors with featured roles include a team that has worked well together in the past, most notably in last season’s “Bat Boy." Jackson McLaskey, Kelly Robinson, Nick Yocum, Matthew Miazgowicz, Colin Mallory, and Anthony Scamihorn return to the roots of musical comedy and make it seem effortless.

Nick Yocum is delightful as Nathan Detroit, the guy behind New York’s oldest established “floating” crap game. Nathan has promised his fiancée of 14-years that he has quit running the crap game, but he’s desperate to raise a bank roll with one more big enterprise. His fiancée is the long suffering Miss Adelaide, featured dancer at the Hot Box night club, played with cheery energy and authentic showgirl wowza by Keira Schmitt. She has many fine performances in “the club,” but the duet “Sue Me” with Yocum is a favorite.

In a ploy to score the $1,000, Nathan bets high-roller Sky Masterson that he can’t get a certain “doll” to go to dinner with him in Havana, Cuba. Sky takes the bet, and then discovers that the “doll” is Sarah Brown, who runs the Salvation Army mission on the corner.

Sky Masterson is played by Jackson McLaskey with a suave, tough-guy confidence that leaves plenty of room to let the show’s comic moments and light romance shine through. Although he pursues Sarah Brown (Kelly Robinson) to win a bet, he finds that he’s truly fallen in love – something that he knows is “no good” for a professional gambler. Kelly Robinson has a thrilling voice, and her scenes with McLaskey – especially “Havana” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” – are marvelous. A certain amount of heartache and dumb luck are inevitable, but love eventually beats the odds in this splendid musical.

This dazzling cast also includes: Bailey Allshouse (West Bloomfield, MI) Waiter, Krista Borthwick (Warren, MI) Agatha, Paul Clauson (Sterling Hights, MI) Brannigan, Garett Harris (Royal Oak, MI) Benny, Logan Hart (Grosse Pointe Woods, MI) Angie-the-Ox, Colin Mallory (Lansing, MI) Rusty, Matthew Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) Nicely-Nicely, Luke Rose (Harrison Twp., MI) Big Jule, Anthony Scamihorn (Marshal, MI) Harry, Anna Seibert (Detroit, MI) Aileen, Austin Sullivan (Dexter, MI) Louie, Kendall Talbot (Sterling Heights, MI) General, Graham Todd (Shelby Township, MI) M.C., Hot Box Girls: Lydia Di Iorio (Farmington Hills, MI), Maria Iduante (Westland, MI), Ashley Kalchik (Commerce Township, MI), Maria LoPiccolo (Riverview, MI), Molly McMillan (Saline, MI), Hope Morawa (Lincoln Park, MI), Melodie Myshock (Romulus, MI), Shanice Rollins (Detroit, MI), Danielle Wright (Southfield, MI), Lisa Youngs (Wyandotte, MI). Ensemble: Alexis Barrera (Hartland, MI), Breon Canady (Detroit, MI), Nicole Heikkila (Garden City, MI), Taylor Morrow (Warren, MI), Janelle Soulliere (Clinton Township, MI), Samantha York (Dearborn, MI).

Michael J. Barnes’ creative and production team includes: Meg Paul and Jeff Rebudal (Choreographers), Devon Hansen (Music Director), Veronica Zahn (Stage Manager), Sarah Pearline (Scenic Designer), Tonae Mitsuhashi (Paint Charge), Brian Dambacher (Technical Director), Christa Tausney (Props Master), Mary Copenhagen (Costume Designer), Samuel Byers (Lighting Designer), Ryan Koprince (Master Electrician), Amy Schneider (Sound Designer), Michael Hallberg (Assistant Sound Designer), David Sterritt (Fight Director), Andrew Papa (Dialect Director) and Jordan Donahue (Publicity Manager). The 15-piece orchestra is wonderful – just listening to the overture is a treat.

“Guys and Dolls” is a show worth seeing at every and any opportunity, and this Bonstelle Theatre production is worthy of multiple viewings on its own merits. Tickets are $20-$25 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, visiting the Bonstelle Theatre website, or at the Wayne State University Theatre Box Office, located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock. Shows are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. plus a matinee on Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m. There is a special production for area schools on Thursday, April 17, at 10 a.m. The historic Bonstelle Theatre is located right on Woodward Avenue, just south of Mack Avenue in Detroit.