For timeless, musical theater classic, “Guys and Dolls,” the current production at Musical Theater Heritage, brings all the pizzazz, music, characters, and story to life in a fast-paced production that strips the cumbersome stage show of all the scene changes, short scenes, set changes, unimportant dance numbers, yet still mesmerizes the audience with a jam-pack musical performance guaranteed to leave audiences singing as they exit the theater.
Musical Theater Heritage officially opened “Guys and Dolls” Saturday, April 4 in Kansas City’s Crown Center in a theater under transition from its former name, the Off-Center to Musical Theater Heritage Theater. The change gives the production company more control of the space, allowing them to expand their offerings to serve the local theater crowds. “Guys and Dolls” runs through April 19.
Beautiful, strong voices propelled the show to jaw-dropping status. Serious and humorous numbers combined to please the expectant crowd. Opening night found the theater 75 percent full with an appreciative crowd that rewarded the show with a fast standing ovation.
Four superb actors gave the right balance of singing and acting to make the show move quickly and keep the audience’s attention on the story and music. Daniel Boothe, Lauren Braton, Leah Swank-Miller, and Christopher Sanders belted the numbers and displayed the dynamics of their individual voices. Braton and Sanders especially stood out for their clear voices in several of the show’s well known numbers, “I’ll Know,” “ Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” and “If I Were a Bell.” Braton was in astonishing voice for her soprano solos and Sanders used his rich, deep bass to overpower the band’s accompaniment. They were a magnificent pair on duets.
For the light-hearted and lesser known songs, Miller sparkled and dazzled as Miss Adelaide and showed her show-stopping comedic talent on “Adelaide’s Lament.” As the leader of the campy Hot Box nightclub, she also sang and danced through “Bushel and a Peck.” As Nathan Detroit, Daniel Boothe was both funny and tuneful on “The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game,” and “Sue Me.”
Also of note, musically, Nicely Nicely Johnson as performed by Andrew Schmidt was extremely versatile and strong. Marilyn Lynch, in a small supporting role, amplified her character to comedic heights not see before by this reviewer in previous renditions of “Guys and Dolls.”
Musical Theater Heritage’s “Guys and Dolls” comes with high recommendations for the twist they create with a tired musical. The format allows the music and story to come out in a free-flowing manner and speeds up the production. Anyone who enjoys a concert-style format should hurry to get tickets for this production. Many shows will sell out as word spreads and glowing reviews boost interest.
“Guys and Dolls” remains a crowd favorite and the show springs to life every year in community theaters and high schools nationwide, but, alas, the show is known as a monster for the many scene changes and time when fully produced. Still, the music features a long list of known songs that audiences recognize.
The cast included Justin Barron, Beth Benedict, Jeff Berger, Elizabeth Birger, Daniel Boothe, Lauren Braton, Erin Fox, Andy Garrison, Sara Kennedy, Jamie Lin, Bob Linebarger, Marilyn Lynch, Leah Swank-Miller, Paul Morel, Mindy Moritz, Zachary Parker, Hank Rector, Christopher Sanders, Andrew Schmidt, Maycee Steele, Royce Strider, Kyra Weinberger.
The orchestra provided crisp and lively accompaniment that seemed faster than most productions of this show and helped keep action moving. Jeremy Watson led the orchestra that included: Watson on piano, Eric Blume on reeds, Ry Kincaid on bass, Chris White on trombone, Tim Thomas on trumpet, and Ron Ernst on percussion.
The creative team who brought “Guys and Dolls” to Musical Theater Heritage are: George Harter, executive director; Sarah Crawford, director, music director; Jeremy Watson, piano, assistant musical director, conductor; Char Gerlt, executive producer; Shane Rowse, lighting; Robin Harman, stage manager; John Hileman, sound; Nick Perry, assistant stage manager; Audra Viele, props, costumes.
For tickets and more information, Musical Theatre Heritage provided the following information: box office: (816) 221-6987; business Office/group Sales: (816) 221-6987; 2450 Grand, Suite 301, Kansas City, MO 64108, Crown Center Shops, Level 3. Tickets may be purchased online at their website. www.MTHKC.com