“Guys and Dolls” at the Barnstable Comedy Club

November 11, 2011

“Guys And Dolls”– With Show-Stopping Numbers, Gorgeous Voices, This Is Community Theater At Its Best

Rob Minshall and Katie Lynch Koglin as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown.

Pair some of the Cape’s best vocal talent with a much-loved Broadway show chock-full of outstanding tunes, and not much can go wrong. Well, a few things did go wrong at the Barnstable Comedy Club’s opening night performance of “Guys and Dolls” last Thursday—costume mishaps, lighting glitches, and a certain missed coordination in the choreography, but these are the kinds of problems that are quickly remedied. This is a show well-worth attending, especially this year, the 61th anniversary of “Guys and Dolls,” the 100th anniversary of the Village Hall theater, and the 90th anniversary of the venerable Barnstable Comedy Club.

“Guys and Dolls” opened on Broadway in 1950, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. Music and lyrics are by Frank Loesser, based on stories by Damon Runyon.

Director Rinne Caruso has done an excellent job casting this show, her community theater directorial debut, especially with some of the minor characters, like Lou Maloof as Arvide Abernathy, whose “More I Cannot Wish You” is one of the true gems of the show. Often lost among the bigger and better known musical hits of the show, this tune, sung to Sarah Brown by her kindly grandfather (“But more I cannot wish you/Than to wish you find your love/Your own true love this day”), this song, as performed by Mr. Maloof, is lovingly tender.

Larry Zalis as Big Jule is another perfect choice. He plays the big, gruff gangster with his own lucky dice (the numbers have been removed, but Big Jule “remembers where the spots were.”) His imposing presence and understated humor is just right.

Three talented real-life couples take on the major roles of this show. Husband and wife Kevin and Rachael Kenneally are nicely matched as “good old reliable” Nathan Detroit, famed for his skill in arranging crap games, and his fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, a nightclub singer who, in her letters to her mother, pretends she is happily married to Nathan, an assistant manager at the A&P, and the mother of five children.

Ms. Kenneally is delightful in this role, both in her two numbers with the Hot Box Girls (Taylor Seaward, Suzanne Johnson, and Candace Hunt), “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink,” and her endearing and humorous “Adelaide’s Lament” (“a person can develop a cold”). Her accent is well done and adds to her appeal, and she brings out both Miss Adelaide’s vulnerability and independence.  Adelaide has some great lines, and Ms. Kenneally makes the most of them with her fine comic delivery And the Hot Box Girls add a lot of fun to the production.

Ms. Kenneally’s duet with her husband, “Sue Me,” is also a treat. Both are good vocalists and present these good old reliable songs with authenticity and a fresh approach. As Nathan, Mr. Kenneally is earnest and so desperate to find a place to hold his crap game that he is willing to bet legendary gambler Sky Masterson that he cannot take the uptight and unapproachable Sarah Brown, leader of the Save-a-Soul Mission, to Cuba with him.

Robert Minshall and Katie Lynch Koglin play this unlikely couple, Sky and Sarah. In an effort to win the bet, Sky pretends that he has come to the mission to seek salvation. In a tender moment, Sarah sings “I’ll Know (when my love comes along),” and Sky joins in, a charming duet. Ms. Koglin has a beautiful high soprano voice, and Mr. Minshall has a strong, rich dramatic delivery. Together, or separately, they shine.

Ms. Koglin’s “If I were a Bell” is simply gorgeous, one of the sparkling highlights of the show. Loosened up with a little alcohol, Sarah realizes she is in love with Sky, and she sings this song with a lovely sweetness and innocent inebriation, a perfect rendition.

Mr. Minshall is tall, dark, and dashing as good-hearted Sky Masterson. His big number is “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” and he delivers on this show-stopper, another highlight of the production, complete with singing and dancing gamblers. He commands the stage, and his voice fills the theater.

In real life, Ms. Koglin is married to Steve Koglin, another great vocalist, who plays the comical gambler, Nicely-Nicely. In yet another highlight, Mr. Koglin goes all out in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” a glorious high-energy gospel-style tune with the chorus that is certain to please.

Also in real life, Mr. Minshall and Ms. Caruso are a couple, expecting a baby this month, which must have provided some additional challenges for Ms. Caruso in particular.

Other notable performers are Ian Rubinstein as Benny Southstreet, Mickey McManus as Rusty Charlie, and James Swindler as Harry the Horse. Mr. Koglin, Mr. Rubinstein, and Mr. McManus start the show off well with their rendition of “Fugue for Tinhorns” (“I got the horse right here”).

Fine use is made of the large cast in the opening and closing scenes of bustling New York and in the dance numbers.

The orchestra, led by music director Marcia Wytrwal, does an outstanding job, giving an animated performance without ever overpowering the vocalists. Choreography is by Taylor Seaward.

Costumes, designed by Christy Morris, are well done, evoking the Prohibition-era setting of Runyon’s stories. The set, featuring a colorful Broadway street scene, painted in perspective, was designed by Dennis Marchant.

“Guys and Dolls” continues at the Barnstable Comedy Club through November 20, with performances Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $20, $18 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.barnstablecomedyclub.com or call 508-362-6333.

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