The Fulton Theatre’s production of “Guys and Dolls” is transporting audiences nightly from our chaotic times to the bustling streets of New York City: a city where lovable gamblers roam the streets alongside merry mission band members. This classic musical centers around gamblers Nathan Detroit (Fran Prisco) and Sky Masterson (Kevin Earley) who are putting their money on love. Nathan is always focused on his next bet, and has not found time to marry his fiancé of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Christine Sherrill). When the high rolling Sky Masterson comes into town, Nathan finds an opportunity for a high stakes bet. Nathan bets Sky to seduce the conservative Sarah Brown (Whitney Winfield) for $1,000. Comedic hijinks ensue as both men attempt to place their cards on romance.
Fran Prisco is a comedic riot as Nathan Detroit. This is a classic role that Prisco imbues with heart and good humor. Although Nathan is a gambler, his love and affection for Miss Adelaide is always at the forefront of Prisco’s performance. The care he brings to Detroit makes his absolutely hysterical line deliveries even richer. At many points in the evening, it seems that Prisco is paying homage to the great Nathan Lane who played Nathan Detroit in the 1992 Broadway revival. He still manages to make the role his own while paying tribute to the great actor who played this role previously. This is no easy task, and one that Prisco achieves in spades.
Christine Sherrill is a revelation as Miss Adelaide. The character of Adelaide is usually played as a squeaky and ditzy cartoon, but instead Sherrill decides to go for a more honest and truthful portrayal. This choice makes the comedy of her scenes hit even harder. Her “Adelaide’s Lament” in act one stops the show as we see Adelaide’s frustration and worry about her delayed marriage. Sherrill brings a raw energy to this number that just crackles with wit and emotion. She also shares fine chemistry with Frisco’s Nathan Detroit. They are a fine comedic pair who bounce off each other effortlessly. Their second act number “Sue Me” had the audience in stitches as these two pros gave a masterclass in comedic phrasing and expression.
Kevin Earley was a wonderfully suave Sky Masterson. With a fine voice and a confident swagger, Earley’s Masterson brought a grounded nature to this bright and vibrant comedy. He shared excellent romantic chemistry with Whitney Winfield’s Sarah Brown. With his clean look and brooding nature, it was clear why Winfield’s Sarah would fall in love with Sky. He was excellent in his ballads, but his real standout moment was “Luck be a Lady” as he led the number with gusto and a true command of the stage. In that number, even with the cast dancing up a storm, the audience just couldn’t take their eyes off of Earley’s magnetic Sky Masterson.
Whitney Winfield was a delight as Sarah Brown. The arc of Sarah Brown from a conservative member of the mission to a free and strong woman was expertly conveyed by the actress. She had an excellent soprano voice that was as clear as a bell. Winfield showed excellent vulnerability and affection in her scenes with Earley’s Masterson. They especially shined in their wistful duet “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” that built to a thrilling crescendo.
Along with displaying great dramatic work in her early scenes, she was absolutely hysterical in the scenes set in Havana where her character became intoxicated. Winfield performed these scenes to great comedic effect. She also shared excellent chemistry with Sherrill’s Miss Adelaide in the second act tour de force, “Marry the Man Today.” Whitney Winfield’s performance was a total delight and one of the brightest of the evening.
Randy Jeter was absolutely lovely as Nicely Nicely Johnson. He was he in excellent voice and shared strong energy with Fran Prisco’s Nathan Detroit, Kevin Faraci’s Benny Southstreet, and Mark Aldrich’s Rusty Charlie in the opening number. He also filled the stage with bright humor and energy in his second act showstopper “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.” His powerhouse vocals with the cast’s breathtaking enthusiasm and exuberant choreography by Cody D. Smith was sensational. This number built to a dizzying height that stopped the show cold and threatened to blow the roof off of The Fulton Theatre. Although this was an ensemble number, it was a clear standout moment for Jeter, and one that audiences will remember with awe long after the run ends.
Another standout in the cast included, Brian Martin as Lt. Brannigan who brought some refreshingly dry humor to this uptight character. David Girolmo was incredibly sensitive and sweet as Arvide Abernathy. Abernathy’s number “More I Cannot Wish You” is usually a throwaway song, but Girolmo performs the number with such sincerity and heart that it turns into a highlight of the second half. Timmy Woodward Jr. is also a welcome surprise in a humorous twist on the usually menacing Big Jules. The ensemble of gamblers and hot box dancers are also a delight as they inhabit the piece’s various roles.
Cody D. Smith’s high flying choreography has the gamblers pirouetting and dancing up a storm. While it may seem initially out of character, the energetic and jubilant movements actually heightens the cartoon nature of the show’s world. Smith’s buoyant choreography for the spectacular “The Crapshooter’s Dance” and “Luck Be A lady” sequences are rousing and impressive in their infectious spirit. Smith also creates humorously inspired visions for the Hot Box number, “Bushel and a Peck,” and the laugh filled second act opener, “Take Back Your Mink.” Although excellent throughout, Smith reaches new heights for the evening in “Sit Down You’re Rockin the Boat,” which the cast leads joyfully as they leap with endless abandon across the stage. Smith is making his Fulton choreographic debut with “Guys and Dolls” and after this impressive start, this is surely not to be the last Fulton audiences will see of Smith.
Marc Robin once again shows great talent and versatility as a director. He gets excellent comedic performances out of the entire cast, but always makes sure the humanity is purely at the center of this production. The care he has for this piece is evident throughout. This particular production of “Guys and Dolls” is bursting with joy and life, and that is in great part to Robin’s strong directorial hand. The creative elements which include the vibrant costumes of Erinne Lawlor and colorful sets and lights from William James Mohney and Paul Black all work together in perfect harmony to create a production that is stunning from top to bottom.
The Fulton Theatre’s production of “Guys and Dolls” with an excellent score by Frank Loesser, a hilarious and heartfelt book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows and powerhouse performances bring this show to vibrant and new life. This is classic musical theatre at its absolute best and one that audiences should run not walk to go see.