March 06, 2005

Guys and Dolls

This afternoon, Jane and I and our two boys attended a matinee of Guys and Dolls done by the local high school's drama department, and we had a rousing good time. That's the main thing, and I want you to keep it in mind. I'm going to pick a few nits in just a moment, but we had a hugely entertaining afternoon--which is to say, the show is a success.

Naturally, the production wasn't perfect. Most of the actors spoke a little too fast in the first few scenes; the phrasing in the songs was often just slightly off--technically correct, but still not quite right; the lighting was a bit erratic; the acting skill was variable; and no matter how much make-up you put on a seventeen-year-old, she's not going to look like an old lady.

But they found eighteen guys who could dance--no mean feat. The music was excellent. Miss Adelaide and Sky Masterson were outstanding, and Sarah Brown and Nathan Detroit have nothing to be ashamed of. Many of the folks in the smaller parts did outstanding jobs as well.

But most important--they treated the show with respect. More than that, they performed with joy, and they had a good time. A classic show like Guys and Dolls is like a well-oiled machine: treat the show with respect, and give it your heart, and it'll get you where want to go. Today it certainly did.

Muck with it, on the other hand, and it'll bite you. I'd much rather see a high school production like this than a Broadway revival. And if I ever sit through the movie version of Guys and Dolls again, it will be with a remote in my hand, fast-forwarding through the songs butchered by Frank Sinatra and (why? why?) Marlon Brando.

Why did they cast Marlon Brando for Sky Masterson? I don't get it. Sinatra is at least plausible--though far too smooth to be Nathan Detroit. His version of "Sue me" sounds pretty instead of anguished and resolute. But Brando! The man can't sing, and his version of "Luck Be A Lady" is a crime.

Fortunately we didn't have to put up with anything like that today. The singers might not have wrung every bit of nuance out of each song, but they were singing them the way they were supposed to be sung, not trying to put their own imprint on them. Congratulations to them!

For what it's worth, I don't much like the movie versions of Camelot or West Side Story either.

Posted by Will Duquette at March 6, 2005 05:56 PM