From the time the stage lights up, to the time the lights dim and go off, you know you are in the hands of masters. For 1,200 performances, starting on November 24, 1950, the Tony Award winning musical Guys and Dolls titillated packed theater audiences on Broadway. As producers Cy Feuer and Ernie Martin joyfully discovered, if you’ve got music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, a script by comedy writer Abe Burrows based on short stories by Damon Runyon, choreography by Michael Kidd, and George S. Kaufman as director, you can’t go wrong. And they didn’t.
This production of Guys and Dolls, which extolls the virtues of a can-do horse named Paul Revere, the lament of unrequited love and the discovery of unexpected love, and an all-or-nothing crapshoot to save a gambler’s honor, is being performed now at the Westchester Broadway Theater through May 9. This show demonstrates that really good material can stand on its own merits when compared with today’s crop of current musicals.
The story revolves around Miss Sarah Brown, an uptight mission doll whose goal is to rescue Times Square sinners from their evil gambling ways; Sky Masterson, the gambler determined to sway her from that goal; and Adelaide, seeking to get married after 14 years of engagement to Nathan, who would rather not. Add to the mix an assortment of Runyon-created, streetwise Times Square characters and you have the essence of a very slick prohibition-era musical.
Right at the start, Nicely-Nicely (played by the wonderfully engaging and talented Jayson Elliott) sets the tone, along with Sheldon Henry and the ensemble, in a rousing “Fugue For Tinhorns.” Later on, he sparks the spirit of the show with the title song “Guys and Dolls.” In the second act, the audience ignites with applause for his explosive rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat.”
Adelaide, The Hot Box strip club star, engaged for 14 years (played by the saucy, spirited Allie Schauer) gets the saucy and spirited “Bushel and a Peck,” “Adelaide’s Lament”, and “Take Back Your Mink.” (Hey, the lyrics were written 63 years ago. So, no political excuses here.) Michael Brian Dunn plays hotshot gambler Nathan Detroit with broad exuberance. He brightens his characterization of the besieged gambler needing a base for a floating crap game, with several shades of frustration, panic, and loveable comic relief, particularly in the duet “Sue Me.”
Gary Lynch, playing the part of Sky Masterson, is suitably suave, assured and masculine. He also fills the stage with a strong resonate voice that commands the stage in Masterson’s signature tour de force “Luck Be A Lady.” Courtney Glass is Miss Sarah Brown, the beautiful and focused Sergeant of the Times Square Save a Soul Mission, who worries that she is not up to soul-saving, and surely not up for Sky Masterson. But, the starch begins to soften on an evening excursion to Cuba. Ms. Glass is then given the opportunity to absolutely devour “If I Were a Bell” with her lilting, multi-layered soprano voice and a wonderfully measured performance.
Some reservations remain, such as harsh sound registration in the singer’s higher notes, and the lack of a fuller orchestration at some key moments. However, these observations deter little from the splendid production, including the picture perfect costuming, lighting, staging, and set effects, particularly in the famed sewer crap game sequence. The entertainment value of Guys and Dolls at the Westchester Broadway Theatre is top-notch, and well-worth the visit.
The best kept secret in the river towns may be the area’s first-class 60-member symphonic band, the Westchester Symphonic Winds (WSW), celebrating its 25th anniversary on Saturday evening, May 18, at 8 p.m. with a gala concert and reception at the Tarrytown Music Hall.
Begun in 1988 as the Hudson Valley Wind Symphony, it was the brainchild of several New Rochelle High School graduates, who convinced their former band teacher, James D. Wayne, to conduct the group and to help them assemble players. Twenty-five years later, the group is thriving under its new name, chosen to better reflect its focus and membership, and its award-winning Music Director since 2008, Curt Ebersole.
Ebersole is a White Plains resident, director of instrumental music at Northern Valley Regional High School (Old Tappan, New Jersey) and a former principal clarinetist in the group’s early years. In 2010, WSW had the honor of performing at Lincoln Center, and in 2012 they were one of the ensembles chosen to perform at the Association of Concert Bands National Convention.
WSW is an all-volunteer ensemble composed of adults from all walks of life who continue to play their instruments for the sheer love of it, and who love the unique sound of a symphonic band. Since many people have never heard a serious concert band, they hope to impart that love to the general public by spreading the word and filling the house.
After many years of performing benefit concerts for other charitable organizations in venues as diverse as SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center, churches, the Irvington Middle School gymnasium and an old airplane hanger in Garrison, WSW was thrilled when Karina Ringeisen and Bjorn Olsson suggested that the band rehearse and perform at the Tarrytown Music Hall, and become “Ensemble in Residence” there. With their enthusiasm, cooperation and with the wonderful location, acoustics and facilities of the Music Hall, it is a perfect fit.
This concert will celebrate WSW’s 25th year with its most challenging program , featuring extraordinary music and distinguished artists, including Dr. Mallory Thompson, director of bands at Northwestern University, as special guest conductor, leading the group in “Galop” by Dmitri Shostakovich. In addition, Dr. Thomas McCauley, director of bands at Montclair State University, will conduct “Elegy for a Young American” (a tribute to John F. Kennedy, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of his death this fall). Guest soloists for this concert include Lois Hicks-Wozniak, alto saxophonist and formerly of the West Point band, performing “Fantasie” by Jules Demersseman, and Barbara Ciannella, piano, performing “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. Other selections include “Symphony No. 6” by Vincent Persichetti, the stirring “Finale, from Symphony No. 1” by Viasili Kalinnikov (complete with antiphonal brass), and a Sousa march as the surprise encore.
Tickets are $15 for seniors and students, $20 for adults, and free for children under 10. They may be obtained through the Music Hall box office, 877-840-0457, or online at www.tarrytownmusichall.org.
After The Wiz opened on Broadway, January 5, 1975, it was initially scheduled to close soon afterwards for a variety of reasons. But, those legendary angels who hover over Broadway shows, intervened. And, lo and behold, after 4 years and 1,672 performances, if finally did close and “Eased on Down the Road” to fame, fortune, national tours and Sleepy Hollow.
The Wiz follows the story line of the favorite and familiar The Wizard of Oz, but with a major twist, though not the one that hit Kansas long ago. Frank Rich, The New York Times critic wrote: “What made The Wiz surprisingly moving the first time around (1975) was that its creators found a connection between Baum’s Kansas fantasy and the pride of urban black America….it had something to say, and it said it with verve and integrity.” Today, as Variety points out “it is a multicultural collage that speaks to the broadest possible audience.”
Julie Colangelo, the engaging and talented director of this production, strongly comments that “the theater has no ethnicity, no black or white, no brown or red. It has a spirit and a message which it sends out clearly, into the theater and into the world, no matter who speaks the words or who sings the songs.”
For this production, the role of Dorothy was played by Paloma Gratereaux; the cowardly lion was performed by Francis Pace-Nunez; Colin Atkinson played the Tin Man in need of a heart; and Annie Warren was the scare crow in search of a brain.
The orchestra, stage crew, electricians, lighting and sound techs, scenery and costume designers, wherever possible, are students. As Julie advises, “It gives the kids a sense of ownership, of cooperation, and a great foundation for theater, or for those new projects and adventures after Sleepy Hollow High School.” Of course, Dorothy gets back to Kansas, just as she has done all these years. And, her companions get what they need, too.