No matter where it happens to be…Broadway, a local theater house, or a high school…you know you are in for a rollicking good time when you go to see GUYS AND DOLLS. As this former “Hot Box” dancer (in my youth) can tell you, it is such a fun production to do. The King of Prussia Players looked like they were having a ball, and the audience was right there with them! David Ben Leavitt, Director, and Tammie Reimer, Producer, have put together a dynamic production.
Joseph O'Neill as Sky Masterson and ensemble perform "Luck Be A Lady" in King of Prussia Players' GUYS AND DOLLS, running in Audubon, PA through March 13.
There were quite a few standout character actors who I would like to single out, starting right at 7:30 when Jeff Prushankin (Harry the Horse) came out in character to tell us a few things we needed to know (turn off cell phones, etc.). He also let it be known that they would be performing a song that Frank Loesser (Music and Lyrics) had cut from the original production. Prushankin was a wonderful character actor throughout, and used terrific facial expressions to deliver some hysterical one-liners. When the curtain opened, the ensemble was frozen to begin “Fugue for Tinhorns”. The original “cut” song was one I had never heard before, “Traveling Light”. While performed adequately by Sky (Joe O’Neill), Nathan (Ben Fried), Benny (Peter Hayes), and Nicely-Nicely (John Casertano), it is not difficult to see why Loesser cut it, as it does not add much to the show.
My mouth dropped when I heard Amy Armstrong (Sarah Brown) first sing. You will not be disappointed by this opera-trained wonder. Her chemistry with O’Neill was spot-on. Sandy Yozviak (Adelaide), a much credited actress in the tri-state area, didn’t disappoint. Adelaide is a difficult character to get perfectly right, as I have seen some actresses make her out to be quite the ditz. Yozviak portrayed Adelaide the way she was meant to be portrayed…sympathetic but strong, as a loyal woman who just wants to be loved by her guy. Armstrong and Yozviak made a powerhouse duo in “Marry the Man Today”.
The real stars of GUYS AND DOLLS, to me, are always the ensemble players. A great ensemble works in tandem with its four leads to create a show in perfect cohesion. In addition to Prushankin, Hayes (as Benny Southstreet) and Clark Van Hekken (Big Jule) deserve to be mentioned for their outstanding line delivery. I think I broke a rib laughing when Big Jule called a fellow gambler a “lazy water buffalo”. But wow, John Casertano could rival any Nicely-Nicely I’ve ever seen (that includes the Great White Way)! From his constant prop use (celery, a soda bottle, etc.), to his unbelievable showmanship in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”, I hope to see him again in something soon!
While a very long show (beginning at 7:30 and ending at 10:40 with one fifteen-minute intermission), it kept my attention throughout. With a stellar cast, this production of GUYS AND DOLLS is not to be missed!
GUYS AND DOLLS
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Directed by David Ben Leavitt
February 25 – March 13, 2011
King of Prussia Players
Shannondell Performing Arts Center
Kelly Thunstrom is a longtime devotee of the arts. She was a dancer for over 10 years in Wilkes-Barre and was in many dance and theatrical productions throughout high school and college. She graduated from Kutztown University with a degree in Elementary Education, but is also certified in Middle School Social Studies and Secondary English. After teaching for over a decade, she is now focusing full-time on writing. Kelly is an e-commerce copywriter in King of Prussia; the founder of her own book review blog, 1776books.blogspot.com; a contributing reviewer to Bookloons.com; and the educational writer for the Summit Series for Families website. She has been writing for Stage since February of 2011.