Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Guys, Dolls" isn't well-rounded

Cleveland Press August 1, 1979

"Guys and Dolls" is one of the best musical comedies of all time. It is so good it even survives scaled-down indifferently directed productions.

It is one of these that opened last night at the Front Row Theater. And yet I enjoyed it. You can't help enjoying Frank Loesser's words and music, Abe Burrows' play based on a couple of Damon Runyan stories and all those Runyan characters.

Anyone who can't find something to like in "Guys and Dolls" must be -- as a Runyan character would say -- such a guy as will never be moved by anything short of an earthquake.

The show is being promoted as one having 20 hit songs. That's not far from the truth and it marks this 1950 musical as being extremely far from musical comedies of the last few years. To get 20 hit songs now you'd need 20 shows and that's assuming there's one hit in each of them which is quite an assumption indeed.

"Guys and Dolls" is the double story of big time gambler Sky Masterson and his involvement with the Salvation Army lady, Sarah Brown and of Nathan Detroit, proprietor of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York and his 14-year-engagement to showgirl Miss Adelaide.

Mixed in are such assorted Runyan regulars as Harry the Horse, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Liver Lips Louie, Big Julie and Roscoe the Runt.

Abe Vigoda, who has an unhappy countenance that makes a sad-faced hound dog look happy, is a good choice for Nathan Detroit -- a somewhat different Nathan but not a bad one.

Virginia Martin does well with the comic anguish of Miss Adelaide although there were times when she over did the nasal tones. Kathryn Crosby is a properly wholesome and romantic Sarah Brown and she sings well.

Hugh O'Brian registers as a street-wise type in his portrayal of Sky Masterson but he can't sing.

Taylor Reed as Nicely-Nicely and Carl Nicholas as Sarah's grandfather have voices that make up for the lack elsewhere in the cast.

There is some fairly good dancing in the nightclub numbers and in the big gambling scene by a company that knows its business.

The show suffers from being staged in the round by people who haven't figured out the best way to do it. Imaginative staging in the round is an art that was lost when Musicarnival stopped doing its own production a few years back.

Pacing of this production was on the slow side last night which may change after opening night. While the songs get by on their own there are times when I wished for some scenery, some atmosphere and something more varied than flat lighting.

But I will lay 7 to 5, which is not a bad price, that this show would be good no matter what was done to it.