Can't ask for much more than Paper Mill's "Guys and Dolls'

Published in the Home News Tribune 6/08/04



Through July 18

Paper Mill Playhouse

Brookside Drive


$30 to $67

(973) 376-4343




Call it "Women and the Men They Want to Change."


Or call it "Guys and Dolls," its real title.


Either way, the 1950 musical is on stage again in a blazing production at the Paper Mill Playhouse, and the presentation leaves no doubt why this show is so durable. Funny characters, sort of a story line, good music and songs, and snappy dancing. What more do you want?


"Guys and Dolls," a multiple Tony winner, has music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It was inspired by the stories of Damon Runyon. The dramatic situation is established when Nathan Detroit, who oversees the longest-running crap game in New York, bets high-stakes gambler Sky Masterson that Sky can't get pretty mission worker Sarah Brown to join him in a trip to Havana. Meanwhile, Nathan tries to put off yet again the marriage he promised night club dancer Miss Adelaide when the two were engaged 14 years before.


These stories, such as they are, play out amid a gaggle of Broadway caricatures provided by Swerling and Burrows with Runyonesque slang and dressed by costumer Randall Klein in a riot of colors and the most vertical stripes ever assembled under one roof.


The cast is exemplary. Michael Mastro is a stitch as a bumbling, endearing Nathan Detroit. Karen Ziemba is hilarious as Nathan's the perpetually sneezing fiancee. Ziemba -- nominated for a Tony this year for "Never Gonna Dance" -- lights up the joint with her two night-club numbers ("Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink") and works the most out of the comic reflection on her relationship with Nathan -- "Adelaide's Lament."


Kate Baldwin is a suitably sympathetic and vulnerable Sarah Brown; she's a funny drunk when the situation demands it, and she sings like an angel.


As for Robert Cuccioli, he was made for Sky Masterson, or the other way around, even if his ultimate conversion under Sarah's spell is a little hard to swallow. A key to Cuccioli's success is that he appears so comfortable in his roles. Even in this show, which is a put-on from start to finish, he looks as though he really lives in that cartoonish set (designed for a national company) and he sings his lyrics as though they were natural conversation.


Robert Creighton is amusing as a Lou Costello-ish Nicely-Nicely Johnson, and he joins Robert DuSold and Erick Buckley in a particularly crisp and pleasing rendition of the title song. And Bob Dorian, an amiable figure -- with a lilting Irish accent -- as Sarah's grandfather, provides by far the most touching moment in the show with his song to her, "More I Cannot Wish You."


Director Stafford Arima and choreographer Patricia Wilcox fill this production with the style and vigor it needs to suggest Runyon's view of the street and its denizens.


"Guys and Dolls" has been around for a long time. See this production, and you won't wonder why.


article ŠNJ Home News Tribune published with authority of the Paper Mill Theatre