Saturday, June 22, 2024

This classic musical revival is a real doll

The San Francisco Playhouse continues to blow me away with each production they do and the current Guys and Dolls is no exception.

I’m also awe-struck by the amazing sets and production values of the Playhouse as it’s relatively a small theatre. But they must have the largest backstage in the world as I have seen grandiose set pieces make it to the stage and I wonder where they are stored when not in use, especially when shows stay on the boards oftentimes for months, like Guys & Dolls playing through Jan. 13.

While Heather Kenyon’s scenic design isn’t grandiose, it’s impressive nonetheless and helps elevate the production. The show, first produced in 1950, is old-fashioned for sure with dialog and situations that are outdated by today’s standards—even the title with Dolls, who use that term any more. Still not only does that offer us a snapshot into musical theatre from days gone by, but the production has hired a few non-binary performers making us know that we’re paying tribute to the olden days, but we aren’t taking it too seriously.

This is a classic show in any event and adding any freshness is often appreciated as the musical has been produced many times and by theatre troupes of various levels. The biggest mainstay and reason to put on the show is the songs. There are so many classics in this production that it almost rivals West Side Story with the most memorable tunes. In addition to the title song, we’ve got Sit Down You’re Rocking the BoatAdelaide’s LamentLuck Be a Lady and I’ll Know.

Then there’s that cast. SF Playhouse seems to bring in the Bay Area’s most talented performers. They have winners with David Toshiro Crane as Sky Masterson, Joel Roster as Nathan Detroit and Abigail Esfira Campbell who brings the voice of an angel to her Sarah Brown character.

But what a find they have with Melissa WolfKlain as Adelaide. She was good in the Playhouse’s production of A Chorus Line, but now she can claim the title of scene-stealing superstar as she is terrific. In singing voice and comedic timing, this part is fresh and beautiful in her hands. She will be remembered at awards’ season.

With so many jukebox musicals making a resurgence in the theatre world, sometimes it’s nice to cuddle up to a tried and true classic and Guys and Dolls comes up a winner.

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Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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