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THEATER REVIEW - Guys And Dolls

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)   I identify with Nicely Nicely Johnson. He’s waiting at the newsstand in Times Square for the New York Post’s late edition, the one with the ‘Five Star Racing Final’ sports section. He’s a man with an opinion about today’s first race at Belmont Park. His day job is to rustle up customers for his boss’ illegal craps game, but whatever money he makes from that is probably invested in tomorrow’s daily double.

This brings me back to an earlier time in my life when I’d watch the racing replays on television from Rockingham Park with my tiny notebook next to my easy-chair. I’d jot down the numbers of horses that were blocked on the rail or fanned wide in two-turn races. Those runners would be enthusiastically bet the next time they races. Guys And Dolls reminds me that once there were dozens of people with ‘bad trip’ notebooks. Their unwritten creed: Money won is always sweeter than money earned.

Sky Masterson, the high stakes gambler who gets caught in a sucker-bet, is suave and cool. He speaks the great truism of the evening: “the companionship of a doll can be a pleasurable for a period of time running into months…” My own experience is that gambling and women don't mix. Taking a lady to the races involves too much time making sure she's having a good time and not enough time picking winners. And since I suspect there are women reading this review, I’d best disassociate myself from Sky’s other observation: “Figuring weight for age, all dolls are the same.”

Dan Drenk (Sky Masterson) is a long-time favorite at Wausau Community Theater, and this is one of his best leading roles with just the right mix of straight acting and singing. Zach Hagenbucher (Nathan Detroit) was a delight; his interplay with Brenna Schleif (Miss Adelaide) was strong. And her Lower East Side accent was perfect, even while sneezing. Brian Zell (Nicely-Nicely) and Justin Spanbauer (Benny Southstreet) captured the male harmonies that are an intergral part of the evening.

I've always found the Runyonland crew of Guys and Dolls to be rich and colorful. Wausau Community Theater's production captures them well. Not all gamblers have girlfriends who dance at The Hot Box or can fly to Havana to woo their date. And gone are the days of neighborhood craps games and big-time prize fights. That’s the appeal of Guys and Dolls: it’s full of characters who probably weren't very likable, but have been cleaned up in our memories. And sometimes in our minds eye love becomes sweeter than aces back-to-back. Sometimes. 


Chris Conley
3.6.14


The are additional performances of Guys and Dolls at the Grand Theater in Wausau on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm.