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Arts & Culture

Ashland Review: Guys and Dolls

Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival


by Dorothy Velasco

March 17, 2015

I’ve got a tip for all you fun-loving guys and dolls. Put your money on the musical, “Guys and Dolls,” now playing in the Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

I doubt I’ll ever see a better production of this joyful New York fable based on the stories of Damon Runyon and transformed into an award-winning musical by composer and lyricist Frank Loesser, with book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

As directed by Mary Zimmerman, the 1950 musical about gamblers Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit; Adelaide, Nathan’s showgirl fiancee; and Sarah Brown, a Salvation Army lass, is electrifying.

A constant dilemma for the gamblers is where to hold Nathan’s crap game. With the help of his pals, led by Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Nathan barely keeps one step ahead of the law.

Adelaide, who suffers a psychosomatic cold lasting as long as her 14-year engagement, is the star performer at the Hot Box nightclub. In such a milieu, Sargent Sarah and her fellow missionaries are hopeless at converting sinners.

But bets are made and Sky promises to bring in twelve sinners if Sarah will accompany him to dinner. She agrees, and only later learns the dinner will be in Havana.

The opening night spectators loved this show from the first moment, but in the second act their response reached a rare level. After “The Crap Shooters Dance” and again following “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” they laughed, shouted and applauded for several seconds, and then, when they realized they were part of an exhilarating shared experience, the volume rose to a roar.

Credit Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The crap shooters dance.

The entire show is non-stop fun and every actor is a delight. Rodney Gardner, who played the twin servants in “A Comedy of Errors” last year, makes a lively, endearing Nathan Detroit. He truly loves Adelaide, but he’s commitment-phobic.

Robin Goodrin Nordli as Adelaide couldn’t be better. She takes pride in performing, but she dreams of a little house in the country, with Nathan tending a garden.

Jeremy Peter Johnson’s Sky Masterson is a handsome gentleman who honors his debts. Kate Hurster is a prim Sarah who really lets her hair down after a few drinks in Havana. And Daniel Parker as Nicely-Nicely is funny-funny.

“Guys and Dolls” is perfect entertainment for all ages.

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