Guys and Dolls

“Guys and Dolls,” playing at Orem’s SCERA Showhouse through April 10, is a mixed bag of a show, bolstered by a few great performances and some fantastic sets and costumes.

Frank Loesser’s musical, in case you’ve never seen it, is about a bunch of New York gamblers and the women who love them, or something like that. Nathan Detroit (played solidly by David Whitlock) runs a nightly craps game that must always be held in different locations, due to pressure from an overzealous cop (played underzealously by Ethan Barnes). On this particular night, he must come up with $1,000 to pay a guy in exchange for using his garage.

Enter Sky Masterson (Dallyn Vail Bayles), a big-shot gambler always willing to take a risk. Nathan bets Sky $1,000 that Sky can’t convince the local Salvation Army icebox Sarah (Hailey Jones-Smith) to go to Cuba with him. This leads to a Sky/Sarah romance, while Nathan’s own 14-year romance with dancer Miss Adelaide (Jayne Luke) is faltering due to Nathan’s inability to make a commitment.

I don’t know if characters like this ever really existed, or if they actually talked and dressed the way they do here. All the men speak with unfailing politeness, rarely even using contractions, and all are dressed to the nines, as they say. In fact, the dazzling costumes (by Tina A. Barnes, Karen Lundquist and Mary Louise Scott) are a spectacular addition to the show, complementing perfectly the comic strip-colored sets (by Teri T. Griffin).

And measuring up to the sets and costumes are some very fine acting performances. The best thing about the show is Jayne Luke, whose Adelaide is a sheer delight to watch. Everything she does bespeaks class and professionalism. David Whitlock’s Nathan is not far behind her, nor is Steven Craig Dunford, as gambler Nicely-Nicely Johnson. (His solo in “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” gives him a chance to shine at center stage, proving he’s capable of more than a supporing role.)

Dallyn Vail Bayles and Hailey Jones-Smith, as Sky and Sarah, have fantastic singing voices, but zero chemistry as a couple. Sarah’s part is supposed to be prim and proper, except when she lets loose in Havana, and she fills it well. But Sky comes across as lifeless, with little charm or charisma. Their scenes together tend to drag, though the great vocal performances do help some.

Raymond Robinson’s choreography is lively and energetic, and almost too ambitious for the enthusiastic chorus of a dozen or so men and women called upon to perform it.

Jerry Elison, who directed the show, also has a supporting role as Sarah’s grandfather Arvide Abernathy. His solo, “More I Cannot Wish You,” is unabashedly sweet and sincere.

“Guys and Dolls” has been around for almost 50 years, but when it’s done right, it can be as entertaining as ever. This production stands up admirably and is well worth seeing.

The thing that amused us most in this show was a guy in the chorus, Spencer Williams, who was clearly the happiest man on the face of the earth. He had about a thousand times the energy of everyone else, and a permanent grin slapped on his face. His enthusiasm was alternately admirable and irritating. We didn't know whether to respect him or pity him (there's a fine line). We figure whatever he's taking before the shows, he ought to share some with the comatose Sky Masterson and Lt. Brannagan.

One thing about "Guys and Dolls" is that they keep saying "craps," referring to the dice game. This led my viewing companion to comment, in a very vulgar fashion, on what they call the game when this show is produced outside of Utah. We laughed for a while about THAT, let me tell you.