With songs like "Luck Be a Lady"; "I've Never Been in Love Before"; and the title tune, Frank Loesser's Tony Award winning Guys and Dolls has become a Broadway Musical classic. Since its first performances at New York City's 46th Theatre in the early 1950's & the 1955 film adaptation featuring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Jean Simmons, Guys and Dolls has been performed in numerous productions to audiences around the globe. Walnut Creek's Diablo Theatre Company takes a gamble with its production of the classic, which opened 02/07/2014 at The Lesher Center for the Arts.
Under the stage direction and dance choreography of Kikau Alvaro of an otherwise well-directed show, the opening ran a bit long, though there were some nice comic bits with a pickpocketing nun and some of the gangsters walking over a homeless man. Additionally, the actors' energy for the the first song, "Fugue for Tinhorns" was somewhat lackluster.
However, the show certainly picked up the pace & tempo upon the entrance of Nathan Detroit, portrayed excellently by Gene Bencomo, and his trio selection, "The Oldest Established", sang with Nicely Nicely Johnson & Benny Southstreet, played by Nick Quintell & Nikita Burshteyn. Bencomo is certainly the major highlight of this production's cast.
Next we met, Sky Masterson, played by Tom Reardon, and one of the show's bright talents, Kimberly Nearon, who portrayed the innocent Sarah Brown. Nearon certainly had marvelous vocals and a splendid acting performance. On the other hand, Reardon certainly acted and performed well vocally but looked too mature in the role of Sky.
Another wonderful rendition came from Mary Kalita as Miss Adelaide. Kalita's vocals were quite memorable for "Adelaide's Lament". The chemistry between Bencomo and Kalita certainly worked the best among the principals.
Other memorable selections from this production included the following: the title song (Quintell & Burshteyn); "I've Never Been in Love Before" (Reardon & Nearon); "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" (Reardon); "Sue Me" (Bencomo & Kalita); "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" (Quintell); and "Marry the Man Today" (Nearon & Kalita).
Under music director & conductor, Matt Smart, the orchestra performed quite well. And Alvaro's dance choreography was simply wonderful, especially for "Luck Be a Lady" with Sky and the Guys as well as all of Miss Adelaide & the Hot Box Girls numbers.
The scenic elements and drops by Broadway By The Bay were more than adequate although there seemed to be some timing issues in some transitional scenes, including the Havana, Cuba into the New York City scenes. The costumes seemed fitting for the production. There were a few a few lighting issues including dimly lit edges for the numbers, "A Bushel and A Peck" & "The Crapshooter's Dance" as the actors in those areas of the stage could not be seen in their lights.
Overall, Diablo Theatre Company's production is definitely worth seeing, especially for the performances by Bencomo, Reardon, Nearon, and Kalita. Guys and Dolls runs through 03/01/2014 at The Lesher Center for the Arts' Hofmann Theatre, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. There's $5 parking on the Locust Street side of the Center. Call (925) 295-1400 for ticket prices & show information or click on the links below.
Diablo Theatre Company: http://diablotheatre.org/blog/guys-and-dolls
Discounted-Goldstar Tickets: https://www.goldstar.com/oakland-east-bay/events?q=lesher