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Theater review: ‘Guys and Dolls’ rolls the dice and comes up big behind strong performances

UPDATED: Sat., July 14, 2018

Brandon Michael, Megan Renae Parker, Casey Raiha, Sarah Dahmen co-star in “Guys and Dolls” at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre. (Emily Jones)
Brandon Michael, Megan Renae Parker, Casey Raiha, Sarah Dahmen co-star in “Guys and Dolls” at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre. (Emily Jones)

Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre pays homage to classic musical theater with the opening of “Guys and Dolls.”

“Guys and Dolls” follows the story of Sky Masterson (Brandon Michael) as he is challenged by Nathan Detroit (Casey Raiha) that he cannot take prim missionary Sarah Brown (Megan Renae Parker) on a date. Detroit is not without his own trials in the romantic world; his fiancee of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Sarah Dahmen) is growing impatient with his gambling ways.

The production featured four strong leads, each bringing distinctive talents to the show, making it a lively and fun-filled evening.

From the minute Michael sang his first note, I was hooked. I was completely blown away by “Luck be a Lady,” and his acting did not disappoint either. He portrayed Masterson’s easy confidence naturally and believably.

Parker fit into the shoes of prim and pious Sarah Brown perfectly. Her voice, often reaching operatic tones, added to the unattainable nature of Brown’s character at the beginning of the show. As she changed her voice to a more classic Broadway style during the Havana scene, I was impressed by how her vocals mirrored the arc of the character in such a way that I could tell Brown was beginning to let loose.

Raiha made an excellent Nathan Detroit, torn between his love for Adelaide and his desire to continue leading the life he always has, shooting crap with other gamblers. This internal struggle provided fodder for some hilarious moments, made possible by Raiha’s superior acting abilities.

Dahmen made a charming Adelaide, and I found myself eagerly anticipating each of her appearances and musical numbers. I particularly enjoyed “Adelaide’s Lament,” in which Dahmen showed both her talents for acting and singing, as well as an aptitude for comedy.

Nicely Nicely Johnson (Curen Feliciani) and Benny Southstreet (Jerrod Galles) also brought in their fair share of comedy as Detroit’s right hand men. In addition to being a source of comic relief, they made an excellent vocal team for the first act rendition of the title number.

The dance ensemble deserves a healthy dose of recognition as well; in many parts of the performance they all but stole the show.

One standout among the chorus was Dennie Thorpe. Thorpe fully committed to each character and dance number, and although she had no speaking lines, she exuded confidence and stage presence through the precision and style with which she executed the choreography.

“The Crapshooters Dance” featured male members of the ensemble who were light on their feet as they performed a series of daring jumps and lifts.

The female and male ensembles groups joined forces for an explosive dance number in “Havana,” which quickly won my heart as a favorite scene. Infusing the jazzy choreography of the show with a tropical flavor, the change of setting was apparent while staying true to the overall feel of the show

Choreographer Kasey Davis deserves a standing ovation as well. The signature Broadway style was given added pizzazz with sharp looks to the audience and chorus-line-style high kicks. Even the moment when Sarah Brown punches a woman in Havana was well choreographed.

As far as other supporting characters who deserve their fair share of the limelight, Kim Berg made a charming and loveable Arvide Abernathy, Sarah Brown’s grandfather. In “More I Cannot Wish You,” Berg created a heartwarming atmosphere as he sang to Parker about his hopeful wishes for her future.

The sets, costumes, and lighting effects helped round out the nostalgic and classic ’50s feel of the show. Set designer Cameron Anderson deserves recognition for his whimsical imagination of sets in bright colors reminiscent of a comic book. Jessica Ray, the costume designer, imagined beautiful garments that fit in with the classic feel of the musical.

The show both began and ended with an opaque screen with images of the characters projected on it. The screen revealed the actors and actresses behind it through a trick of the light, further enhancing the whimsy and otherworldliness of the show.

The only thing I could have wished for the show would be the addition of one final dance number at the end. I felt the show ended a bit abruptly and would I have loved to experience the full cast bring down the house with a longer and more vibrant reprise of the title number.

Despite the missed opportunity for a showstopping final number, the overwhelming standing ovation during curtain call was very earned. Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s “Guys and Dolls” brought the whole package of Broadway theatricality, making it a show not to be missed.

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