First-time director Christopher Mahr showed great promise on Friday, August 22nd when his production of Guys and Dolls opened at the charming High Street Arts Center in Moorpark. This wildly entertaining version of Frank Loesser's classic musical brought great joy and laughter to everyone in attendance. The cast was an especial knockout, featuring a powerful ensemble and several memorable leads.
Ryan Driscoll (Nicely-Nicely), Griffin Hughes (Benny Southstreet), and Kelly Green (Nathan Detroit) in "Guys & Dolls" (photo by Barbara Mazeika)
Guys and Dolls opened for the first time on Broadway in 1950. It became an instant hit, running for over 1200 performances before being revived countless times and even transformed into a feature film. Seasoned performer Kelly Green takes to the stage once again, reprising the iconic role of Nathan Detroit. It becomes quite clear the moment Green steps on stage that his experience as a performer goes back years. He is a natural talent with excellent comedic timing and a strong voice to match. Masaya Palmer plays the hilarious role of Adelaide, Nathan's ditsy fiancée who remains entirely devoted to marrying him after being engaged for fourteen years. Palmer makes a fabulous leading lady, and like Green, she performs with commitment and ease. She nails the trademark accent of her character while adding her own special flair to the role.
Justin Cowden plays Sky Masterson, the clever, charming gambler known for taking great risks when it comes to placing a bet. Sara Marie Calvey performs beside him as Sarah Brown, a young woman with a passion for leading her fellow members of the Save-a-Soul mission. These two characters may seem an unlikely pair at first, but their chemistry is undeniable during the number, "If I Were a Bell." Calvey has a beautiful, classic soprano that fits nicely with the gentle nature of her character, especially during the song "I Know." Cowden shows impressive acting and singing skills on stage, especially in the famous number "Luck Be a Lady." The entire cast has enthusiasm for what they're doing, which is always an important asset in live theatre. A strong ensemble makes a show especially enjoyable, and that is exactly what the ensemble of Guys and Dolls has achieved. Talents of varying ages are featured, all sharing great enthusiasm for what they do. Another standout in the cast includes Ryan Driscoll as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, one of Nathan Detroit's gambling buddies. Driscoll hardly has to try and put a smile on your face, because his incredible characterization and knack for what he does shines throughout the entire show. On opening night, the audience cheered him on after his performance of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
Choreographer Julie Auxier did a wonderful job of creating a mix of lively dance numbers, ranging from the scenes in Havana to Adelaide's very own show at the Hot Box. Music was provided and mixed nicely by DJ Brady, who just made his debut working at High Street.
You can bet this production of Guys and Dolls is a show worth seeing. Performances continue to run at the High Street Arts Center through September 21st. For ticket information and more, visit www.highstreetartscenter.com.