WASHINGTON, DC – A short run of this classic has left town already, but there’s a lingering thrill that can still be felt. The buzz had started as soon as the full cast had been announced – Kevin Chamberlain as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Jessie Mueller as Miss Adelaide, James Monroe Iglehart as Nathan Detroit, Phillipa Soo as Sarah Brown, Steven Pasquale as Sky Masterson, Allison Blackwell as Agatha, and Rachel Dratch of SNL fame as Big Jule. Broadway royalty such as we rarely see in a traveling production would be starring and the tickets were as scarce as hen’s teeth. From the get-go, major out-of-town papers were clamoring for seats and the thought that this would be the caliber of shows presented by Kennedy Center’s “Broadway Center Stage” series sent theatregoers into overdrive.
From racetrack handicappers in zoot suits to gangsters in loud plaids, pinstripes and spats, the colorful characters of Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows 1950 musical Guys and Dolls invite us into the underworld of horse racing, hoochie-coochie joints and floating craps games. And the funny thing is, we want in. Why? Because their bigger-than-life caricatures and pratfall personalities are hilarious. Hanging out with these street corner gamblers and their flashy dolls is flat-out fun.
Back in the day the Salvation Army and its memorable band would march along Times Square seeking converts to attend their religious meetings. The Save-a-Soul Mission, led by the beautiful Sarah Brown and her avuncular grandfather form the spiritual grounding and counterpoint to the fast life of the lowlifes while the romance between Sky and Sarah provides the counterbalance to Adelaide’s show-stopping performances at the racy Hot Box cabaret.
On a stage set backdropped by rotating scenes of a neon-lit Broadway with tracer lights ablaze on both sides of the stage and two large onstage “dice” showcasing the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra on the big stage, this marvelous show captures New York’s underworld in exhilarating style. The Kennedy Center even managed to obtain and use the 1992 orchestrations from the show’s Broadway revival – an extraordinary coup and no mean feat.
Loesser wrote lyrics as catchy as “the sheep’s eye and licorice tooth” to paint a vivid picture of gritty writer Damon Runyon’s reflections on the 1950’s. Punctuating the show’s colorful characters are a bevy of male and female dancers who elicited gasps and spontaneous applause from the audience while performing flawless leaps and flips as though attached by wires. They weren’t.
Lady Luck showed up in the Eisenhower Theater that night and we witnessed Washington theatre history.
With Jacqueline Antaramian as General Cartwright, Fred Applegate as Arvide Abernathy, Eden Marryshow as Lt. Brannigan, Matthew Saldivar as Benny Southstreet, Jimmy Smagula as Harry the Horse, and Akron Watson as Rusty Charlie/Hot Box MC.
Directed by the great Marc Bruni; choreographed spectacularly by Denis Jones; Scenic and Projection Design by Paul Tate Depoo III; Music Director Kevin Stites; Book by Jo Swerling; Costume Design by Mara Blumenfeld; Lighting Design by Cory Pattak; Sound Design by Kai Harad.
Next up on Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage will be Wicked opening December 8th and going through January 22, 2023. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you. For tickets and information visit www.Kennedy-Center.org or call the box office at 202 416-8000.