With its whopping cast size and an equally daunting song list, Guys & Dolls doesn't seem like the best choice for a rookie director. But that didn't stop local actor Jason Platt from taking the helm of Quad City Music Guild's first summer offering, and making a darned good run of it. To be sure, the Thursday-night preview show either needed a few major cuts to shave off at least 20 minutes of the two-hours-and-50-minute (including intermission) run time, or a quicker musical pace set by music director Charles DCamp. However, the lead vocal performances were phenomenal, the female dance numbers were great fun to watch, and the set design and high-quality costumes effectively represented New York City, circa 1940.
The "guys" in this period piece are a group of ne'er-do-well gamblers who are always searching for the location of the next craps game arranged by Nathan Detroit (J. Adam Lounsberry). When high roller Sky Masterson (Nathan Bates) comes to town, Detroit tries to find a way to win a thousand dollars from the young man, and succeeds when he bets Sky that he can't convince just any "doll" to accompany him to Havana. The "doll" he proposes is the saintly Sarah Brown (Jenny Winn), who's about to lose her post as sergeant of the missionaries, and who, of course, falls for Masterson when he promises to repent his sins.
Also contributing to this complex plotline, and making for some of the funniest scenes in the show, were Detroit's fiancée of twelve years, Miss Adelaide (Tracy Pelzer-Timm), and her gaggle of groupies from the Hot Box dance club, as well as Detroit's dim-witted though well-meaning underlings, Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Brian Nelson) and Benny Southstreet (Joe Maubach).
I can't say enough about the lovely vocals provided by Winn, particularly in her solo, "If I Were a Bell." Her "Marry the Man Today" duet with Pelzer-Timm was also one of my favorite performances of the show, while Pelzer-Timm herself deserves accolades for "Adelaide's Lament" and her equally sweet and saucy interpretations of "A Bushel and a Peck" and, with the Hot Box Dolls, "Take Back Your Mink."
Other memorable performances included Nelson's "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," a spirited gospel number in which he and the entire ensemble showed off their best and loudest vocal chops; the cast's sultry dance number at the club in Havana; and Bates' lively rendition of the well-known "Luck Be a Lady."
Interspersed among these highlights were a few musical or dance numbers that seemed to me unnecessary - or at least uncomplimentary to the cast - especially considering the production's uncomfortably long running time. For example, the all-male dance number that led up to "Luck Be a Lady" did little aside from confirming for me that the men on stage were cast for their vocal talents, not their dancing abilities. (Sorry, guys.) And the craps game that took place shortly thereafter focused way too much attention, I thought, on Platt's strangest and most lamentable choice: the sock puppet.
In the program, the character of Big Jule is billed as being performed by the actor Michal Chasen, but the character of Harry the Horse (Bruce Carmen) actually ends up providing Big Jule's dialogue through the woolly mouth of a sock puppet. I'm not sure if this was the result of a last-minute fix for a casting issue, or if Platt just thought it'd be an amusing interpretation of the character, but either way, it sure wasn't funny. (Few members of the audience were laughing either, so I don't think I'm alone in my assessment.)
Music Guild's Guys & Dolls succeeded as a vivid display of local vocal talent; it also boasted some beautiful costumes by designer Mary Bouljon, particularly those worn by the "dolls" and the missionaries. I should've brought a pillow, though - the show went on too far past my bedtime.
For tickets and information, call (309)762-6610 or visit QCMusicGuild.com.