| Roll the Dice: Enjoy ACCT’s Production of Guys and Dolls Jr. |
By Cynthia Westham
I hadn’t heard “I love you a bushel and a peck” since my mother sang it to me as a child until last weekend when I saw Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s (ACCT) production of Guys and Dolls Jr., a delightful classic musical comedy directed by Emily “EJ” Jonas with Music Direction by Heather Gifford, and Executive Producer Austin Fodrie. Based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, the play tracks the story of New York wise guy street gamblers in the 1940s juxtaposed with the missionary workers of the Save-A-Soul Mission. Guys and Dolls won 5 Tony Awards in 1951, including Best Musical and has had several revivals—none recent – and this is the first local production of which I’m aware. When the curtain opened on the first scene, I was struck by the vibrant use of color in the costumes and simple yet effective backdrop, staging, and lighting. ACCT used a simple rearrangement of large dice and creative lighting throughout the show to take the audience from the streets of New York to the mission to the sewer to the “Hot Box,” Havana, and back.
Jefrey Lopez, in his first ACCT show, was impressive as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and led the upbeat full ensemble opening and closing numbers “Fugue for Tinhorns” and “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.” Other crapshooters included Claire Fuller, who gave a stand out performance as Benny Southsteet, along with Catherine Weingold as Harry the Horse, Annalise Grindstaff as Big Jule, and Joel Simpson as Rusty Charlie. Elizabeth Cooney brought comedic relief as the frustrated Lt. Branigan who was always one step behind the gamblers.
The mission is set to
close unless the head of the mission Sarah Brown, played by Mary Margaret
Bargery, can bring in more souls.
General Cartwright, played by Ellee St. Pierre, delivers the news—along
with some well-timed “Hallelujahs!” Adam
Martineau played the reassuring grandfather, Arvide Abernathy, a faithful
member of the mission who joins the sisters as they march to their hymn “Follow
the Fold” throughout the show.
Brett Medley as Sky Masterson, the biggest crapshooter in town, plays Bargery’s counterpart. Both gave convincing and beautiful performances as romantic leads. Masterson convinces Brown to go to Havana for dinner, and their evening was amusing and magical. I found Bergery’s performance of “If I Were a Bell” to be one of the best in the show. Medley’s transformation from a high roller to embracing love felt genuine. The two are drawn to each other but know they’re from different worlds. When Bargery says it won’t work between them, Medley asks, “Why not? What kind of doll are you?” Her response, “I’m a Mission doll!” brought a lump to my throat and felt like a “drop the mic” moment.
Sophia Stine, a local 6th grader, gave a strong and entertaining performance as Miss Adelaide, who has been the frustrated fiancé of Nathan Detroit for 14 years, a role aptly played by Nate Jones. He’s as adept at dodging the police during his floating craps games as he is at dodging marriage. Stine had the perfect amount of sass, coupled with a sweet singing voice as she performed her amusing antiquated laments and the duet with the talented Bargery, “Marry the Man.”
Though obviously kid-friendly, it was easy to forget this was a children’s performance. When Master of Ceremonies, Sebastian Zornes gave his enthusiastic introduction, I felt transported to a 1940s nightclub for Stine and the Hot Box girls’ enjoyable performance of “A Bushel and a Peck.” The Hot Box Girls and ensemble cast gave well-choreographed and executed dance and singing numbers throughout – especially the tap-dancing by Kaela Smith and Isabella Spooner during Medley’s well-sung “Luck Be a Lady” – with special touches that made this a truly enjoyable show. The show is fast-moving, has a fairly short runtime, one intermission, and provides a humorous escape for the entire family from shutdown/furlough news. I would say the odds are in your favor if you gamble on attending one of the remaining performances between now and January 27. Find showtimes and tix here: https://acctonline.org