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THEATER REVIEW: Arkansas Repertory Theatre's 'Guys and Dolls' is a sure bet

by Eric E. Harrison | December 3, 2022 at 5:20 p.m.
Ben Grimes (from left) as Benny Southstreet, Carlos Lopez as Nathan Detroit and P. Jay Clark as Nicely-Nicely Johnson seek a place to mount “the oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York” in “Guys and Dolls” at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Stephen B. Thornton)

There are many shows worth a gamble on local stages this holiday season, but “Guys and Dolls” at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre is a sure bet.

The quintessential Golden Age musical (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, based on a story by and characters of Damon Runyon) gets a glorious staging from director/choreographer (and Hendrix College alum) Gustavo Zajac and a diverse cast of nearly two dozen. The cast’s talented locals actually outnumber the out-of-towners (that list includes a few Broadway veterans).

Set in Runyon’s New York demimonde of gangsters, gamblers and molls, the show focuses on the long-standing engagement of Nathan Detroit (Carlos Lopez), who runs the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York,” and nightclub chanteuse Miss Adelaide (Stephanie Gibson in a comic tour-de-force). It also spotlights the only-in-a-musical relationship between uber-gambler Sky Masterson (Christian McQueen) and straitlaced missionary Sgt. Sarah Brown (Kim Onah).

The performances are highly stylized in keeping with Runyon’s stylized dialogue. Superior over-the-top turns come from supporting players P. Jay Clark and Ben Grimes as Detroit’s sidekicks Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, respectively; David Weatherly as Big Jule; Frederick Webb Jr. as Harry the Horse; Kathryn A. Pryor as General Cartwright; and Glen J. Gilbert as Arvide Abernathy.

The show’s success also rests with Michael Riha’s obtuse-angular set, and on the six-piece band whose stand is on the set’s upper level. Stacey Herrison’s costumes, particularly the “Take Back Your Mink” outfits, are worth singling out for praise; however, the Save-a-Soul missionaries look like they’re from a long-lost house at Hogwarts.

The cast, the band, the set and the costumes are all onstage, 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 31 at the Rep, 601 Main St., Little Rock. Ticket information is available by calling (501) 378-0405 or by visiting TheRep.org.


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