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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Cast captures fun of ‘Guys and Dolls’ in Abrams

Critic At Large

Abrams Spotlight Productions

Program covers. (Warren Gerds)

ABRAMS, Wis. (WFRV) – In a quirky way, “Guys and Dolls” is one of the great musicals in America theater. The thing abounds in fun stuff …

+ Dicey guys holding a craps game in a Salvation Army mission.

+ A nightclub tootsie with allergies from her engagement of 14 years, and counting.

+ A hotshot New York high roller who suckers a devout wallflower to join him in dinner in Havana on a bet.

It’s all part of romance.

At Abrams Spotlight Productions playhouse, romance with theater is part of the deal with the community troupe’s current production that is running for seven more performances. Love is blind, you know, and that may account for the mixed-age cast ranging from two eighth graders in important parts to adults who seem to be checking off some bucket-list experiences in juicy roles. Ya gotta love how flexible theater is.

It helps that “Guys and Dolls” is a joy forever. It’s got lovely songs and comical songs from musical whiz Frank Loesser and a whole mess of joking around that’s the trademark of laugh-smith Abe Burrows.

First-time director Abby Frank taps into her fascination with the show to spark the we-can-do-anything production.

Catchy performances start with the four leads. Will Knaapen goes out and grabs the bravado of Sky Masterson, a dashing gambler. Kate Masson embraces the beauty of “I’ll Know” as part of being Sarah Brown, trying to spin straw (the low-lifes of New York) into gold. Bobby Buffington snatches the perpetual escape act of Nathan Detroit, always one step ahead of the law and marriage. Carolyn Silverberg is all that can be asked for in one of the most indelible roles in musicals as Miss Adelaide, a ditsy showgirl with a way of turning phrases into spun-gold laughs.

Swirling around these four is a mix bag of hustling scene changing on a postage-stamp stage, an eager ensemble willing to take on any role and/or dancing and a generally comical atmosphere.

Also catchy: In the thick of key action are the two eighth graders in the roles of fast-talking slicks from the gambling scene, Sydney Surber as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Nick Blaser as Benny Southstreet. Energy pops in one of the show’s famous songs, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” as Nicely-Nicely cranks up a crazy-quilt of characters in the rousing song.

To play on some of the lyrics for Nicely-Nicely: “Guys and Dolls” is such a strong show that the devil can’t drag it under by the sharp lapel of its checkered coat.

This and that:

– In backdrops of New York City street scenes are special touches with neon lighting. A lyric asks, “What’s playing at the Roxy?” Neon marquee lighting is playing at this show’s Roxy theater.

– Masking is optional for the audience.

– The advanced training of some key cast members surfaces in some brilliant singing and character building.

– Will Knaapen is a dynamic actor who is called on for singing turns that especially shows in the close of “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” as Kate Masson glimmers on a high note and he glides along an octave below. Nice.

– William Shakespeare was extremely versatile with all that he wrote, so it fits right in that the creator and director of a Shakespeare company in Green Bay – Carolyn Silverberg – could splendidly do all in the do-all role of the singing/dancing comedy-driven, anger-firing sweetheart Miss Adelaide.  

***

Running time: Two hours, 47 minutes

Remaining performances: 7 p.m. Dec. 3-4; 1 p.m. Dec. 5; 7 p.m. Dec. 9-11; 1 p.m. Dec. 12

Info: abramsspotlightproductions.com.

Creative: Based on the story and characters of Damon Runyon; music lyrics – Frank Loesser; book – Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows; director – Abby Frank; assistant director – Elizabeth Jolly; stage manager – Tanya Brehmer; choreographer – Debra Jolly; technical director – David Jolly and Mike Konkel; costume designer – Debra Jolly; vocal coach – Kari Devine; sound designer – Tanya Brehmer; set design and construction – Mike Konkel, David Jolly; scenic painting – Lori Jolly; graphic designer – Wendy Diehlmann

Cast:

Sky Masterson – Will Knaapen

Sarah Brown – Kate Masson

Nathan Detroit – Bobby Buffington

Miss Adelaide – Carolyn Silverberg

Nicely-Nicely Johnson – Sydney Surber

Benny Southstreet – Nick Blaser

Amelia Abernathy – Linda Friddle

Harry the Horse – Bill Koehne

Big Jule – David Woosencraft

Rusty Charlie – Travis Rysewyk

Lt. Brannigan – Marly Thomson

General Matilda Cartwright – Elizabeth Jolly

Joey Biltmore – Brady Cox

Mission: Ellie Finger, Aubrey Mitchell, Hayden Beekman, Allison Schoel, Sadie Smith

Crapshooters – Chloe Jansen, Maggie Monte, Kael Pierquet, Brady Cox, Travis Rysewyk

Hotbox Dancers – Hailey Marquardt, Betsy Finger, Elizabeth Jolly, Kelsey Steeno, Julie Johannes-Frohliger

Featured Havana Dancer – Julie Johannes-Frohliger

***

Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)

Act I

Overture – Orchestra

“Runyonland” – Orchestra

“Fugue for Tinhorns” – Nicely, Benny, Rusty

“Follow the Fold” – Sarah, Mission Band

“The Oldest Established” – Nathan, Nicely, Benny, Guys

“I’ll Know” – Sarah, Sky

“A Bushel and a Peck” – Adelaide, Hot Box Girls

“Adelaide’s Lament” – Adelaide

“Guys and Dolls” – Nicely, Benny

“Havana” – Ensemble

“If I Were a Bell” – Sarah

“My Time of Day/I’ve Never Been in Love Before” – Sky, Sarah

Act II

“Take Back Your Mink” – Adelaide, Hot Box Girls

“Adelaide’s Second Lament” – Adelaide

“More I Cannot Wish You” – Amelia

“Crapshooters Dance” – Crapshooters

“Luck Be a Lady” – Sky, Guys

“Sue Me” – Adelaide, Nathan

“Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” – Nicely, Company

“Marry the Man Today” – Adelaide, Sarah

“Guys and Dolls” (Reprise) – Company

***

NEXT: “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” musical, March 3-6, 10-13, 2022.

THE VENUE: The Nancy Byng Community Theater is located at 5852 Maple St. in Abrams. The 167-seat theater is the former St. Louis Catholic Church, built in 1927. Seating is in individual padded chairs. Roman arched windows from the former church are uncovered, revealing eight stained-glass windows. Wooden walls and the ceiling panels made of compressed cardboard are painted black. Wooden flooring includes the image of the classic comedy/drama theater masks in the center aisle. In the rear of the theater is a concession area that serves pop, popcorn, candy and light alcoholic beverages that may be consumed in the theater.

THE PERSON: Nancy Byng was involved in many facets of creativity, from painting to costume designing to directing to writing scripts. She co-founded the theater company on 2003 with her great-nephew, Brandon Byng, who continues his involvement in directing and acting in Clintonville and elsewhere. Nancy Byng died in 2011.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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