From auditions to curtain, every theater production is a gamble, but 2nd Star Productions’ Guys and Dolls beats the odds. A period piece lampooning its own subculture, this 1950 Tony winner for Best Musical still feels funny and frisky from the opening Call to Post to the classic Fugue for Tinhorns. It grabs you by the lapels and doesn’t let go as Nicely Nicely Johnson (James Hulcha), Benny Southstreet (Nathan Bowen) and Rusty Charlie (Daniel Starnes) vow I Got the Horse Right Here.
Ya gotta love characters like Nathan Detroit (Brian Mellen), who runs The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game In New York, and his adorable doxie, Miss Adelaide (Jamie Erin Miller), who headlines at The Hot Box nightclub. Never was there a sweeter, more devoted couple, even after 14 years of engagement.
Then there’s suave Sky Masterson (E. Lee Nicol), a high-roller on the sticky end of a sucker bet whereby he must convince prim Sister Sarah (Erica Miller) of the Salvation Army to go out with him — to Havana. Despite their professed disdain for each other, it’s an offer she can’t refuse when he promises to deliver 12 certified sinners to a critical prayer meeting where General Cartwright (Carole Long) will determine the mission’s fate.
Broadway is crawling with sinners. There are gamblers: Big Jule from Chicago (Steve Streetman), Harry the Horse (Julian Ball), Brandy Bottle Bates (Eric Meadows), Liver Lips Louie (Stevie Magnum), Angie the Ox (Joshua Hampton), Society Max (Tyler White), Scranton Slim (Andrew Gordon), Li’l Pete (Michael Mathes), Jimmy Two Bags (Jerry Murray) and Black Jack Jolly (Brian Jollie).
And the Hot Box dolls: Mimi (Lucy Bobbin), Betty Lee (Debra Kidwell), Penny (Allison Baudoin), Lily (Victoria Brown), Josephine (Emily Morgan), Ruby (Christa Kronser), Charlie (Genevieve Ethridge) and La Rue (Sarah Williams and Angeleaza Anderson).
Despite Sarah’s daily sermonizing to Follow the Fold and Stray No More — complete with a band of Uncle Arvide (Dave Robinson), Agatha (Hillary Glass), Calvinette (Alice Goldberg) and Martha (Kimberly Hopkins) — the sinners see the mission as just another potential gaming site where they can hide from Police Lt. Brannigan (Gene Valendo).
It’s all so suspenseful! Will the sinners find salvation? Will Sarah and Sky find each other’s arms? Will Adelaide drag Nathan to the altar?
Jamie Miller is phenomenal as the old-fashioned girl in fishnets, whether spouting her mother’s homespun wisdom or performing at the Hot Box.
Brian Mellen makes it easy to see why she loves such a weasel as Detroit in his Sue Me.
E. Lee Nicol (recently of The Music Man) charms in such hits as Luck Be a Lady and I’ve Never Been In Love Before. Erica Miller is flush in the campy If I Were a Bell and her Marry the Man Today duet with Adelaide.
Dave Robinson delivers a tender More I Cannot Wish You. James Hulcha and Nathan Bowen are Aces in the title song and dance. Hulcha’s jackpot of Pentecostal fervor, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat, brings the house down.
From barbershop to choral extravaganzas, the harmonies are always true and the clever lyrics clear to the back row. The choreography is kitschy and tight with several big dance numbers such as Havana and The Crapshooters’ Dance spotlighting the eye-popping moves of choreographer Andrew Gordon alongside Bobbin, Kidwell and White. The Hot Box chorus girls, under the management of the Emcee (Mangum), turn burlesque into burlee-cute whether dressed in short coveralls for I Love You a Bushel and a Peck or undressed in lacy corsets for Take Back Your Mink.
With a live pit of 12 musicians, five winning sets and at least 60 period costumes, this is spectacle to beat all spectacles. For a little action, Guys and Dolls is a sure thing for all ages.
Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Director: Debbie Barber-Eaton. Music Director: Sandy Melson Griese. Choreographer: Andrew Gordon. Producer: Nathan Bowen. Stage Manager: Joanne D. Wilson. Set Designer: Jane B. Wingard. Costumes, Makeup and Hair: Linda Swann. Lights & Sound: Garrett R. Hyde.
Playing thru June 25, F & Sa at 8 pm, Su at 3pm at Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Dr., Bowie. $22 with discounts, rsvp 410-757-5700; www.2ndstarproductions.com.