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26Apr

Guys and Dolls - Herndon High School - Herndon, Virginia - April 22, 2017

Lauren MIller

Hayfield Secondary School

 

"Rocking the boat" with its timeless comedy and memorable orchestrations since its initial Broadway debut in 1950, Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls" has become a pinnacle of classical musical theatre. Set in a sin-filled, mid-twentieth century New York City, the show follows the unlikely pairs Sky Masterson (Kishan Rao) and Sarah Brown (Erin Maxwell) and Nathan Detroit (Jordan Rees) and Miss. Adelaide (Allie Lytle) as they struggle to balance the contradicting forces of duty, love, and ambition. Taking on the challenging production as their spring musical, Herndon High School brought refreshing light to the aged tale with professionalism and poise.

 

Opening the show with energy and personality through commitment and confidence, ensembles quickly established the divides in the story between the "guys" and "dolls" with powerful group dynamics that would remain consistent throughout the remainder of the production. Despite common blocking issues that made it difficult to see a great portion of actors on stage, whether in large dance sequences such as "The Crapshooter's Dance" or smaller scale numbers such as "A Bushel and a Peck," the two major ensembles masterfully kept the story moving and engaging with expert group relationships and boldness.

 

Standout performers in the gamblers ("guys") ensemble such as Big Jule (RJ Mosuela), Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Vaheed Ali Talebian), and Harry the Horse (Trace Hollenbeck) led their counterparts with engaging comedic timing and impressive vocals which succeeded in bringing new life to aged classics such as "Guys and Dolls" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

 

Highlighting the talent of the ensembles were able technical aspects and a strong, coordinated pit orchestra. Despite consistent lighting and microphone issues along with occasional loss of tempo from the pit, such problems were more than made up for by professionalism because all involved worked swiftly to keep the difficult show running smoothly.

 

Despite strength from ensembles and featured actors, it was the four leads that stood out above all others in every aspect of their performances. Each of the two couples fostered endearing chemistry that allowed for extreme development of character and story. Rao and Rees as the two male leads captured both the seriousness and vulnerability of, respectively, Masterson and Detroit with their strong senses of character in numbers such as "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sue Me". Maxwell, as one of the two female leads, brought charisma and heart to her uptight character with a developed range and outstanding chemistry with co-stars in standout songs "Marry the Man Today" and "Havana."

 

However, it was Allie Lytle as Miss. Adelaide, the shrill yet lovable performer who had been regrettably engaged (but not yet married) to the devilish bachelor Nathan Detroit for fourteen years, who made Herndon High's "Guys and Dolls" a truly memorable experience. Her consistent charm and character quirks made her the center of attention in every scene she was in, and her distinguished vocals in "Adelaide's Lament," and "Adelaide's Second Lament," and "Sue Me" were equally captivating to her hysterical character movement and choices.

 

Luck was a lady in Herndon's "Guys and Dolls," and the production will not be soon forgotten.


 

A. Charis Conwell

West Potomac High School

 

What do you get when you combine a missionary, a showgirl, two gamblers, a floating crap game, and a bet on love?

 

The classic Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls.

 

Both a romantic comedy and a cautionary tale on the dangers of gambling, Guys and Dolls follows Sky Masterson, who, under the influence of local craps ringleader Nathan Detroit, bets that he can take "any doll in the world" to Havana that evening- including the stern missionary, Sarah Brown. Hilarity, drama, and dance routines ensue.

 

Herndon High School's production of Guys and Dolls was nothing short of classic. With the help of an impressive student orchestra and a wealth of hat boxes (provided courtesy of Herndon's props department), audiences were transported to 1950s New York, where drunks topple in the streets, and a battle is raging for the souls of men and women everywhere. From instrumental numbers like "Runyonland" in the beginning of the show, to the hot tempos of "Havana", to soulful laments like "Sue Me", Herndon's orchestra consistently allowed space for the characters and story to shine, while smoothing transitions and pulling the audience into the winner-takes-all-world of Sky and Nathan.

 

Music, in all its forms, is fundamental to a musical, and its necessity is most obvious in the vocals of the cast themselves. It is through song that plot, passion, and personality are shown, and the cast of Guys and Dolls certainly delivered. There were, however, certain vocalists, like Kishan Rao (as Sky Masterson) and Vaheed Ali Talebian (as Nicely-Nicely Johnson), who stood out from their peers in a very positive way. Allie Lytle, as Miss Adelaide, manipulated her voice, physicality, and even accent in a way that made every song with her character not only pretty, but engaging and entertaining. A devotion to character, coupled with the technical skills to pull her off, made Lytle's flouncy showgirl a highlight of the night.

 

Much of what made Herndon High School's production so engaging was the skill of its cast as comic actors. While the script itself must be credited to Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, even a hilarious line, poorly delivered, can fall flat. However, Herndon's cast never missed a beat. Each of the many comedic moments of the show was given its fair due, and delivered with an excellent eye for timing and purpose. From unexpected one-liners delivered by Arvide Abernathy (Carter Frederickson), to consistently humorous characters like Big Jule (RJ Mosuela), the comedy was delivered with hilarious sincerity. In terms of comic consistency, Jordan Rees (as Nathan Detroit) won hearts and minds with his endearingly well-meaning portrayal of a small-time criminal. In terms of comedy by contrast, where scenes are made funnier by the audience's knowledge of a character's serious side, Erin Maxwell, portraying a blissfully loose Sarah Brown, elicited more than a surprised giggle or two.

 

As a high school production, and as a production in general, Herndon High School's Guys and Dolls has created a show worth seeing. Whether a guy or a doll, a gambler or a missionary, married or bachelor, there is something in this show for everyone.

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