By Ted Hoover
Pittsburgh Current Theater Critic
It’s true, I’ve been heard to make a few cheap cracks about actors in my time. It’s wrong, certainly, and I shouldn’t do it. But they give you so much material – and I’m only human after all.
To be honest, however, (and if you tell anybody I said this I’ll hunt you down) I actually admire them. Truth be told, I am in awe of actors. How they do what they do, do it so well and, far too often, for little or no recompense … performers are just unsung heroes in my book.
Guys and Dolls continues through November 18. Stage 62, Carnegie. 412/429-6262. www.Stage62.org
Case in point: The cast of the Stage 62 production of Guys and Dolls. Here’s this 1950 classic of the American Musical Theater canon, based on Damon Runyon short stories adapted by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. The show was a huge hit then, it’s been revived on Broadway several times, it’s played all over the world … including several times at your high school.
So here’s a cast who have to step inside this monument of a musical and make it seem fresh and original.
Director Seth Laidlaw and musical director Cynthia Dougherty have wisely focused on the vocal elements; when given the gift of a score like Guys and Dolls — “I’ll Know,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” – you’d be nuts not to take advantage of it. So there are some seriously talented singers at work here. Stephanie Ottey’s got a tremendous voice and when she sings “If I Were a Bell” it’s just 4 minutes of plain ol’ loveliness. Sara Barbisch plays Miss Adelaide and runs the board with it; her “Adelaide’s Lament” is sheer joy. Andy Coleman and Ryan Hadbavny as Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson bring terrific sets of pipes to their songs.
The good thing about Laidlaw’s focus on the music is that it takes the focus from the story – it’s got a certain charm but … well, let’s put it this way, it was definitely written before #MeToo. Such dated comedy is exceedingly difficult to pull off but that doesn’t stop this group from trying. The pace and timing is erratic and the staging seems, occasionally, to work against the humor, but still they keep giving it their all.
Choreographer Carly Fuller provides several entertaining numbers for the ensemble and while the steps might have been beyond the grasp of some they kept hoofing away with intention and determination. And a special mention to the uncredited duo performing the specialty dance in the “Havana” sequence.
But while all of that work is cause for my admiration, here’s the real reason I’m awestruck.
Late in the second act there’s a scene where a crap game is played underground in the sewer system. (It sets up “Luck Be a Lady.”) Stage 62 used a fog machine to pump some smoke onstage to give it a little atmosphere.
And it certainly did.
On the night I saw the show it set off the fire alarm!
Metallic beeps screeching out every few seconds, bright white emergency lights flashing around the auditorium but, here’s the thing, the cast didn’t stop!
It was clear there wasn’t any danger, the fog machine was the obvious culprit, but not having been directed to stop they simply didn’t. Almost the entire scene played out until a voice announced over the PA that we were going to take a break until someone from the fire house could come up and shut off the alarm.
You gotta love actors! Anybody else would have thrown in the towel but there they were, plugging away!
Since it wasn’t clear when the show would be starting again, and there were only three songs left, and I knew how it ended, (and I hate the ending) and I’d seen what I needed to see to write this review, I took advantage of the break, slipped out the door and went home.
That’s why I’m in awe of actors … they have more endurance than me.