`Guys and Dolls' Is Broadway at Its Finest, `Man of La Mancha' Holds Its Ground
TWO MUSICAL REVIVALS
GUYS AND DOLLS A musical fable of Broadway based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon. With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Directed by Jerry Zaks. Choreography by Christopher Chadman. Starring Peter Gallagher, Nathan Lane, Josie de Guzman, Faith Prince. At the Martin Beck Theatre.
BEING able to whistle the tunes of a show on the way into the theater isn't necessarily a handicap to enjoyment. It can actually enhance new-old pleasures. Such is the case with "Guys and Dolls," the Broadway fable so adroitly adapted from the Damon Runyon source book, specifically his story entitled, "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown." The exuberant version of Sarah's idyll can now be enjoyed in a production staged by wonderman Jerry Zaks.
"Guys and Dolls" gets down to business without delay in Frank Loesser's score. The first two numbers, "Fugue for Tinhorns" and "Follow the Flag," are natural preludes for the conflict that follows - the encounter between gambler Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown, the determined soul saver of a Broadway mission.
Veterans Jo Sperling, Abe Burrows, and composer-lyricist Frank Loesser knew how to put these intricate musical mechanisms together - how song and dance and dialogue should form a seamless continuity. Their skills didn't fail them when they assembled the elements of "Guys and Dolls" in 1950. Counterpointed against the unlikely romance of gambler Masterson (Peter Gallagher) and Sarah Brown (Josie de Guzman) is the droll relationship between gambling hustler Nathan Detroit (Nathan Lane) and Miss Adelaide (F aith Prince), the ineffable Hot Box tootsie to whom he has been engaged for 14 years. The frustrated fiancee bemoans her plight in "Adelaide's Lament."
As they should do in all well-behaved musicals, the book and score complement and enhance each other. The comic ditties reach a peak of Broadway fervor with "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," with Walter Bobbie's Nicely Nicely Johnson to exhort a choir of Runyonland tinhorns and missionaries. There are comic-romantic songs like Sarah's "If I Were a Bell" and the duet for the heroine and Miss Adelaide, "Marry the Man." Sarah's "I'll Know" melodically anticipates her true love to come while Sky's "My Tim e of Day" is a night owl's aria to the wee small hours.
On the sentimental side, one should not overlook "More I Cannot Wish You," delivered with grandfatherly affection by John Carpenter as the mission's Arvid Abernathy. The humorous salutes to high-toned elocution peak delightfully in such lyrics as "Take back your mink to from whence it came," warbled with suitable hauteur by Adelaide and the Hot Box cuties. Here as elsewhere, Ms. Prince proves herself a musical-comedy comedienne extraordinary.
Mr. Gallagher sings and acts Sky with humor and gallantry. Ms. de Guzman's Sarah is true to both the heroine's dedicated calling and to Broadway tradition. Mr. Lane triumphs anew as a chunky, cheeky Nathan Detroit. Among the supporting principals are J. K. Simmons (Benny Southstreet), Timothy Shew (Rusty Charlie), Ernie Sabella (Harry the Horse), Ruth Williamson (General Cartwright), and Herschel Sparber (a hulking Big Jule).
The handsomely mounted revival benefits visually from Tony Walton's imaginative settings, which range from a surrealistic lower-depths sewer to a moonlit sky (all breathtakingly lighted by Paul Gallo). William Ivey Long has dressed the cast in primary colors, with stripes and checks for the tinhorns, finery and feathers for the ladies of the ensemble, and individual get-ups like the yellow-belted topcoat for Lieutenant Branigan (Steve Ryan) that lends gaudy style to the New York Police Department.
Edward Strauss conducts a superlative pit band attuned to every nuance of the score. MAN OF LA MANCHA Musical romance with book by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion. Directed by Albert Marre. Starring Raul Julia, Sheena Easton. At the Marquis Theatre.
RAUL JULIA proves an honorable successor to the train of singing actors who have perpetuated the fantasy of Don Quixote since Richard Kiley premiered "Man of La Mancha" in 1965. Keyed by Mr. Julia's striking performance in the central role, the Don's tale - as adapted by librettist Dale Wasserman, composer Mitch Leigh, and lyricist Joe Darion - once again asserts its spell in this revival.
The Julia persona - dark good looks, volatility, and fine singing voice - all suit the character of Cervantes's 16th-century dreamer, the "Knight of the Woeful Countenance." This Don burns with the fire of an inner vision. Rebuffed for his foolishness by mundane detractors, he determines to "keep my vigil" and to bring "some measure of grace into the world." Bullies do not intimidate him. Facts, which he considers "the enemy of truth," do not faze him.
In his fantasy, Don Quixote transforms the serving girl Aldonza into the idealized Dulcinea. The challenge presented by these contrasting personalities is commendably met by Julia's costar, Sheena Easton, an award-winning concert and recording artist making her theatrical debut. Veteran Tony Martinez completes the trio of principals with his endearing Sancho, who explains his attachment to the Don in "I Really Like Him."
Other principals in the estimable production staged by Albert Marre include Chev Rodgers (in a dual role), David Holliday (the innkeeper whose hostel Don Quixote mistakes for a castle), Ted Forlow (the barber whose basin the Don adopts as a helmet), David Wasson (the Padre who sings "To Each His Dulcinea"), and Hechter Ubarry and Jean-Paul Richard (whose chores include playing the well-behaved Mule and Horse respectively).
The musical tale-within-a-tale pays due tribute to its source-book heroes: Cervantes himself (who was imprisoned for debt during the Spanish Inquisition) and his inspired creation. Mr. Marre uses the vast stage to good advantage; his choreography adds to the excitement.
The Howard Bay scenery features a raked stage and includes a spectacular suspended staircase reaching out of sight for special entrances and exits. Mr. Bay and Patton Campbell have created picturesque Renaissance costumes. Gregory Allen Hirsch bathes the playing areas in pools of light. No effort has been spared in honoring this fanciful tribute to illusion. At the performance I attended, Mr. Leigh himself conducted the overture.