Arts & Leisure

“Guys and Dolls” is fun and flash

RYAN ADDISON (left) as Nicely-Nicely has “The Horse Right Here” in the opening number of “Guys and Dolls,” now on stage at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove (Ron Lyon photo).

By Thom deMartino

The things that matter most to us are often right in front of us: and while we might think it’s about the role of the dice and the game, it’s often more about the relationships that drive us.

“Guys and Dolls,”, directed by Damien Lorton, recently opened at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove, and it’s a welcome flashback of a Broadway classic.

It’s the 1950’s in New York City, and life is a hustle and bustle of activity; kids running through the streets, pickpockets fleecing the crowds of tourists, and gamblers looking for their next game — one of whom is “Nicely Nicely” Johnson (Ryan Addison), who’s arguing with his cohorts about who will win in a horse race they’ve placed bets on. With no success, they plan on attending an underground craps game, run by their boss Nathan Detroit (Damien Lorton)… If only he can find a location to host it at, that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Nathan’s in a fix, not only because he doesn’t have the cash to pay for a spot to host the game, but because his long-time finance, Adelaide (Adriana Sanchez), a showgirl at the Hot Box nightclub, is beyond weary with both her beau’s postponing of their vows, and his constant gambling. Struggling for a way to find the cash (and stay two steps ahead of police detective Lt. Brannigan, played by Johnnie Gillies), Nathan strikes upon the bright idea of making a few choice bets with a high-roller who’s in town, Sky Masterson (Johnny Fletcher), a man known to place a bet on just about anything.

As he tries to persuade the gambler to place a wager, Nathan realizes he needs a sure thing: which hits him in the form of Sarah (Erika Baldwin), a missionary who, along with her compatriots, works to save the souls of the sinners of New York. Wagering that he can convince the young lady to have dinner with him in Havana, Cuba (with Nathan all but convinced it’s a complete impossibility), Sky proceeds to work upon the pious woman’s religious sentiments, showing her a side of him that may reveal that there is something worth saving in this unrepentant gambler.

But as the two are growing closer, more quickly and unexpectedly than either could imagine, the question becomes: can a relationship founded on deception manage to flourish, or is it doomed to “crap out”?

The newest season has begun at the Gem, and there’s a number of striking shows waiting in the wings for the fans of live theater: but it is certainly hard to beat the classics. Lorton takes a rare turn upon the stage as a man who knows nothing but his gambling, and keeping his relationship on indefinite hold: because without these things, what defines him? Can he become a different, better man? Similarly, Sky’s a man who’s never been one for relationships and sharing experiences, except with his fellow comrades-in-chance: but he’s a man left speechless, when he realizes how much he may have missed in spending time with someone special, and that he may have found her right here.

Baldwin as Sarah is determined and fierce, devout and stubborn, but that steely veneer begins to crack under the constant charm of Sky. She’s a woman who clings strongly to her beliefs, and is uncompromising in them: but unsure how he can reconcile them with her growing emotion towards a man who is (arguably) a sinner. And Sanchez’s Adelaide is a charming and patient woman, who accepts the flaws in her beloved, but knows that there’s really only so long she herself can wait (and keep Nathan’s inquisitive mother-in-law at bay.)

For theater fans, there’s a numerous great musical and dance numbers that they may recognize, even if they’ve never seen the show before: classics like “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “Luck Be A Lady,” as well as great, catchy pieces such as Adelaide’s “A Bushel and a Peck” and Sarah’s “If I Were A Bell.” The live orchestra, as per usual for the Gem Theater productions, adds to the classic feel and authenticity of the whole production, bringing the New York of the mid-20th century to life.

“Guys and Dolls” is a timely classic for both young and old, transcending eras to speak to every generation, and the Gem production is yet another jewel in One More Productions bedazzled crown.

Guys and Dolls,” Johnny Fletcher, Erika Baldwin and Damien Lorton star in this timeless tale of a gambler getting more in a wager than he bargained for. Playing through March 29 at The Gem Theater, 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA, 92840. Call 714-741-9550 x221 or e-mail for ticketing information.


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