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As a staunch supporter of the arts everywhere, and Louisville in particular, I am cheerleader for the validity and importance of theatre in this town. Sometimes, however, my cheers just aren’t quite as boisterous as others.

Music Theatre Louisville’s opening night production of Guys and Dolls gets one of those slightly subdued “hoorays.”

With a promising opening featuring some tight harmonies and strong characters in Nicely Nicely Johnson (producing artistic director Peter Holloway), Benny Southstreet (the magnetic Kyle Braun), and Harry the Horse (Alonzo Richmond), the race is on—but it slows down considerably in the first turn—and doesn’t pick up again until the second act.

While Julie Evins (Miss Adelaide) does a fine job of bringing a quirky lovability and some top-notch vocals to her character, and Peter Riopelle (Nathan Detroit) has perfected the smarmy- and-weasely-yet-somehow-endearing character, Guys and Dolls is Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson’s story, and it was from those two characters that I wanted more.

Sierra Stacy (Sarah Brown) is a beautifully talented singer, and Mason Stewart’s (Sky Masterson) strong voice compliments her well; but together, their characters seemed a bit stiff and perfunctory—relying less on impulse and motivation and more on logistics and blocking. 

The sets were beautifully and artistically painted (Ron Temple), but they felt flat and didn’t support the action of the play. Ironically, the craps game in the sewer was the most striking and visually stimulating; yet it was created for but a single scene. The majority of the action is set in the Save-A-Soul Mission and on the streets of New York; and it was those locales that lacked depth.

Lack of depth could be a considered a reoccurring theme on the evening. Whether it was a financial or directorial decision, the ensemble was a bit thin and couldn’t fill the stage with their lack of members. This was especially noticeable in the Hot Box scenes, where just a few girls danced for fewer guys, and in Havana—supposedly the hopping nightspot—which was populated with just three dancing couples. The party atmosphere simply wasn’t there.

The second act of this Broadway classic finally found the energy it should have had from the beginning. The choreography and fire in the “Luck Be a Lady” sequence were powerful, and the duet between Adelaide and Nathan truly captured the attention of the audience.  Sky and Sarah both warmed up and settled in, and by the curtain call, that “feel good” feeling we've come to expect from MTL productions was back.

Guys and Dolls runs through July 23rd at the Kentucky Center. Tickets are $27.50 for adults, $22.50 for students/seniors, and $12.50 for children (0-12). For reservations, call the Kentucky Center at 502-584-7777 or visit www.kentuckkycenter.org. Limited rush tickets may be available two hours before showtime, in person, at the Kentucky Center box office.

Image: Courtesy of Music Theatre Louisville

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About Michelle Rynbrandt

Before landing in the Possibility City, Michelle toured the country performing in various regional theatres. Having been there and done that, she can honestly say that Louisville's cultural opportunities are second to none.

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