Peak Performances brought the classic musical “Guys and Dolls,” directed by Gary John La Rosa to Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater between March 2 and March 8.
Originally written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, this musical from Broadway’s golden age follows gambler Nathan Detroit as he makes a bet with Sky Masterson that he cannot get the devoted missionary Sarah Brown to go with him to Havana, while Nathan’s fiance, Adelaide, tries to finally tie the knot with him after 14 years.
This was the first time that I had ever seen the show, and I am stunned at how well the cast and crew did. The lighting was amazing, as well as the costumes and choreography. It quickly became one of my favorite musicals.
Every musical number was full of life, such as the number “Guys and Dolls,” led by Nicely-Nicely Johnson played by Thomas Beebe, and Benny Southstreet played by Patrick Sharpe.
It was an entertaining number, visually and vocally. Then there was the number “I’ll Know” performed by Jackson Glenn playing the role of Sky Masterson, and Brigitte Francis as Sarah Brown. This was a back and forth piece that showed the two different dynamics of the characters. A humorous but heartfelt number dedicated to finding love, I was impressed at the feeling that these performers put into their characters.
Toward the end of the aforementioned song, as Sarah Brown slapped Sky across the face for kissing her unexpectedly, members of the audience audibly gasped. The surprise of it, mixed with the overall silence and witty remark from Sky, was enough to feel the slight animosity between the two.
That was not the only time the show brought up a reaction from the crowd. Being mainly a comedy, the show’s comedic timing was fantastic. Some of my favorite scenes had no lines at all. The silence and body language were enough to get the audience laughing, which occurred countless times throughout the performance.
Another number I felt was a highlight of the show was “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat,” performed by Beebe and the rest of the cast. With just about the entire cast there on stage, it felt lively.
Musical numbers were not the only part of the show that blew me away. The costume design was beautiful. They fitted each character well and were colorful, but subtle enough to draw the focus of the eye while also not being the complete center of attention.
Since love is also the backdrop of this show, there were times throughout where, even though subtly humorous, the desperation to find it was still there. Sky risks thousands of dollars in his last effort to uphold his end of the bargain to Sarah. I felt for him and the way he would put all of his wealth on the line for her.
Even though the show contains many energetic and emotional lyrical numbers, the choreography does not fall short, such as the fantastic crapshooter’s dance.
For many students, this show was their way to look back at their acting career. Brigitte Francis shared her thoughts as she ends her senior year at Montclair State.
“Playing Sarah Brown in ‘Guys and Dolls’ has been one of the biggest blessings of my entire college career,” Francis said.
Francis elaborated on how important the role was for her future.
“This role brought about so much freedom in my acting that I will carry with me into every audition, every callback, every rehearsal and every performance from this day forward,” Francis said. “I am deeply thankful for every single person involved with this show and will carry this one close to heart.”
Director Gary John La Rosa was enthralled to be working with this cast and crew again, previously having done “Aida” and “Hair.” He mentioned the scale of the musical was challenging, with close to 200 people working on this production.
“I love working with the students,” La Rosa said. “They are a well-trained and talented group.”
“Guys and Dolls” was beautifully done by the students of Montclair State. The show ran from March 2 to March 8, so hopefully, students got a chance to witness for yourselves just how talented our university’s students are.