Guys and Dolls Review - A Musical Classic for the Holidays


Chalk it up to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts to showcase a timeless holiday frolic for December audiences. An acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, GUYS AND DOLLS brings the 1930's to today’s Beverly Hills doorstep in this musical classic based on Damon Runyon’s unforgettable denizens of urban America.  When Frank Loesser's music and lyrics are joined with the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows based on iconic Damon Runyan personalities, they coalesce into one of the all-time greats in theater. GUYS AND DOLLS is chock full of songs people have been humming for years, like “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Luck Be a Lady.” This is a revival to remember.



Guys and Dolls - Robin Goodrin Nordli - Photo by Kevin Parry


When dashing Sky Masterson (Jeremy Peter Johnson), inveterate gambler and ladies’ man, crosses paths with Save-A-Soul missionary Sarah Brown (Kate Hurster), sparks are sure to fly. Add to that duo the elusive crap game organizer Nathan Detroit and his patient fiancee Adelaide, who’s been waiting 14 years for a wedding ring, and the formula for love gone right or wrong picks up speed. The questions of the day: “How can a guy fall for his own fiancee?” Do all the dolls “have to take their guy in for alterations after they get married?” 


A host of colorful Runyon characters with names like Harry and Horse, Big Julie, Liver Lips Louie, and Angie the Ox keep the odometer on high: Did their night-time visit to the mission really make them “Holy Rollers?” It’s hard to believe that all of these iconic personalities are struggling with The Great Depression and trying to avoid being “stabbed by a Studebaker.” This reviewer laughed out loud at some of the 30's idioms and is still wondering what “a sheep’s eye and a licorice tooth” really meant back in the day.


Guys and Dolls - Daniel T. Parker and cast - Photo by Kevin Parry


Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman does a superb job of keeping the action moving as each character explores his own choices - sometimes while hauling a piece of the stage set to another location. Choreographer Daniel Pelzig is to be commended for beautifully coordinated dance numbers. In fact, the entire production crew deserves a nod for an excellent job very well done. All through the show, the talent, careful planning, and experience of the group is obvious. If a revival can reach perfection, then the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Production of GUYS AND DOLLS has attained this goal. And with a live orchestra to boot!




GUYS AND DOLLS runs through December 20, 2015 at the Bram Goldsmith Theater in the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tickets range from $39 to $110. For reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online at



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