Once again, we are called upon to take witness to another revival of Guys and Dolls. A musical based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon, set to music by Frank Loesser. This time around, the production is directed by Des McAnuff.
Don't expect me to explain why McAnuff et. al. chose Oliver Platt to play the esteemed entrepreneur of the oldest, reliable , floating crap game in New York, one Nathan Detroit, in this top-notch revival that just opened at the Nederlander Theatre. Just be glad they did. For Mr. Platt is wonderful in what can only be considered a stirring example of untraditional casting. Does he have the crumpled, born to play the part look that Sam Levene, the original Nathan in the 1950 Broadway production had? Does he have, whatever it was, Frank Sinatra had when he essayed the role in the 1955 movie version? Does he exude the pitch perfect comedic timing that Nathan Lane conveyed in the 1992 Broadway revival? A generous no must be rendered unto the questions.
But Platt, he of the large frame and rubbery face, pulls it off. His Nathan is funny he's thoughtful and is a surprisingly competent singer. You get the feeling that this is one Nathan who really cares for his cupcake, Miss Adelaide. For this guy, the fourteen or four hundred times he's postponed their nuptials is just a question of business getting in the way of pleasure. You just know he'll see the error of his ways. ( And he does!)
And speaking of pleasure, there's the Adelaide of Lauren Graham. Now, granted, no one can ever duplicate the magic of Vivian Blaine in the role. Just listen to la Blaine describe her 'post-nasal drip', in "Adelaide's Lament" and you'll hear genius sung at warp speed. Ms. Graham has wisely stayed away from that trap. Her Adelaide is spunky and endearing. Her employment as lead dancer at the Hot Box, a step removed from a strip club, is not the greatest job for self esteem. But she's doing all right, especially if Nathan would get around to closing the deal and make her the good housewife and mother she's been telling her mother she already is.
The other two main characters in this Broadway gem are no less spellbinding. As Sarah Brown, the missionary sergeant, ready for a fall, Kate Jennings Grant sings well and does a convincing job of portraying surprise at her here-to-for dormant romantic inclinations. The recipient of her feelings is Craig Bierko as Sky Masterson, a footloose and fancy free gambler, who will lay odds on anything, want to bet? (Bierko, by the way, seems to be making a habit of playing romantic leads of fifties musicals. He played Professor Harold Hill, in a revival of The Music Man, not too long ago). He's a trifle serious for the rollicking proceedings, but he sings with conviction -his "Luck Be a Lady," is especially on target.
With the Runyon stories as backdrop, this is one musical filled with larger-than-life characters. There's Tituss Burgess, who as Nicely-Nicely does a masterful job with "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat". This hand-clapping favorite was the personal property of the original Nicely-Nicely, Stubby Kaye. Move over Mr. Kaye, you've got company in the boat. And there's Glenn Flesher as Big Julie, Jim Walton (of Merrily We Roll Along fame) as Harry the Horse , Graham Rowat as Angie the Ox and Nick Adams as Liver Lips Louie, among the fabulous denizens of a Time Square milieu of a less pristine past. We'd be remiss not to point out the hysterical over-the-top playing of Mary Testa as General Cartwright, the head of the mission. Once again, as she did in