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LIGHTING REVIEW: 'Guys and Dolls' brings Broadway to Flat Rock

Lesley McKinnell (Miss Adalaide) and the Hot Box Dancers in the Flat Rock Playhouse production “Guys and Dolls.” Lesley McKinnell (Miss Adalaide) and the Hot Box Dancers in the Flat Rock Playhouse production “Guys and Dolls.”

FLAT ROCK — "Guys and Dolls" grabs the viewer first thing. You notice.


The first thing you notice is the set. Even before the street-scene façade opens to reveal other scenes, the set immediately draws you to Times Square, post World War II. Then the music. A five-minute overture, by a dozen unseen musicians shoehorned into the loft, under the direction of George Wilkins, sets the tone. Then the costumes. They're brightly colored, perfectly styled to the time. And the hairdos. They are just right.
All this before the banter and the singing and dancing start.
In other words, "Guys and Dolls," Flat Rock Playhouse 2012, the year of trial and tumult, looks like Broadway, sounds like Broadway, feels like Broadway. It's the same old barn but not, to some people's despair, evidently, the same old show. It's highly produced professional theater, and for a Sunday matinee nearly every seat was filled with a paying patron.
When the county commissioner Larry Young remarked "Nobody goes out there anymore" maybe he was channeling Yogi Berra's famous quip about a once-favored restaurant. "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Alas. After promising that I would refrain from writing about the county commissioners while reporting on the actual performances on stage, I have strayed again into the melodrama.
Enough of that. "Guys and Dolls," directed by Playhouse artistic director Vincent Marini, brings fun, music and terrific acting to the stage. In his director's notes, Marini recalls seeing the 1992 revival of the show on Broadway, and being stunned by its freshness.
I had something of the same feeling. Having seen the play within the past five years, I sat down expecting the story to be dated and tedious. It was not. Although the show runs two hours and 45 minutes, it moves rapidly along.
There are no weak actors, which sometimes happens with a large cast and so many challenging singing roles, and no flops in the music, the dance numbers and the laugh lines.
Scott Cote, as Harry the Horse, ignites the laughter just by his physicality. Timing has been well-directed in the show; actors don't step on audience laughs and they're patient enough to let the scene tell.
The Tony award winning Jarrod Emick, as the laconic gambler Sky Masterson, underplays, letting his voice and his angular good looks carry the role of the strong loner who falls for Sarah Brown.
Wayne Pretlow, Michael Marotta and Preston Dyar are delightful as Nathan Detroit's sidekicks, ever willing to let Nathan take the heat from Harry the Horse and his jumbo-sized enforcer Big Jule, played by Herschel Sparber (who also starred in the acclaimed Broadway revival of 1992, which Marini cites as a revelatory inspiration).
As Nathan Detroit, John Plumpis is funny and quick, giving us just enough humanity to root for him despite his blowhard selfish nature.
The show was choreographed by Nick Kepley, a graduate of West Henderson High School and the Playhouse's YouTheatre, who is now a bigtime choreographer for Broadway shows and national ballet companies. It also features four recent Hendersonville High School graduates and a current HHS student in the 12-piece band.
There are too many superlatives to squeeze into a short review. The show is a salute to all that's great about the classic musical comedy, with performances, scenery, costuming and dance that honors a classic script.