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09May

Guys and Dolls - Fairfax High School - Fairfax, Virginia - May 6, 2017

Annie Parnell

George Mason High School

 

In the bustling streets of 1950s New York City, crapshooters and gangsters are on the prowl, searching for a spot to try their luck. Such is the setting for Guys and Dolls, performed with skill this weekend at Fairfax High School.

 

Originally based on the short stories of Damon Runyon, this classic has become a staple of American theater since its original 1950 Broadway run. At its beginning, when house runner Nathan Detroit realizes he is unable to front the security deposit for a spot for his group's next game of craps, he calls a wager with risky better Sky Masterson that he believes he's sure to win — that Sky will not be able to take Sarah Brown, a pious sergeant at the Save-A-Soul Mission, to dinner in Havana. However, the two men soon discover that when it comes to the "dolls" they love, the dice don't always roll the way they're expected.

 

Fairfax High School's students have created a worthy take on this beloved musical, crafting familiar material into a piece all their own while maintaining the story's classic elements. With creative staging and consistent New York accents, the cast and crew worked together to bring audiences back to the heyday of gamblers and molls.

 

Hayden Giles demonstrated talent in physical characterization as "good old reliable" Nathan, crafting a charming dynamic with Miss Adelaide (Emily Dillard), his dancer fiancée of fourteen years, in "Sue Me." Dillard herself showed comedic and vocal strength in numbers "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Adelaide's Lament." As Sky Masterson, Zion Jang radiated velvety vocals and creative chops, as did his strong-willed counterpart Sarah (Tori Garcia). The unlikely couple displayed winning chemistry in duets "I'll Know" and "I've Never Been In Love Before."

 

Densmore Bartly performed with sprightly energy as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, showing off his skills in "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat." In dance numbers like "Havana" and "The Crapshooters' Dance," the ensemble captured the zeal and zest that can only be found on New York and Havana's streets.

 

Detailed set elements and special effects, such as sewer pipes featuring actual running water and the incorporation of a playground slide, brought the show's swinging urban setting to life. The use of the front of the house as the VIP section of Miss Adelaide's own Hot Box Club created a three-dimensional staging concept that placed audiences in the heart of the story.

 

In short, Fairfax High School's Guys and Dolls was a joyful revisit of a time-honored classic, incorporating traditional elements with original twists to prove that despite all odds, sometimes luck really can be a lady.


 

Alec Reusch

George Mason High School

 

Musical theater is a growing, evolving art form that can defy expectations and push the envelope in a lot of ways. But sometimes it's better to just go back to the basics and enjoy a good old fashioned 50's musical. On May 6th, Fairfax High School performed Guys and Dolls, a beloved classic by anyone's standards.

 

Guys and Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, premiered on Broadway in 1950 and won the Tony Award for best musical. The plot follows a group of gamblers in New York City as their leader, Nathan Detroit, tries to find a place for a craps game. To get enough money to do so, he bets the high-stakes gambler Sky Masterson that he can't get Sarah Brown, the Christian mission girl, to go on a date with him. As their relationship develops, so too does that of Detroit and his long time fiancée, Adelaide.

 

Fairfax High School's production hit all the right notes when it came to staging this feel-good show. Each of the four principal actors had ample skill and charm, and they were supported by a solid cast of singing and dancing gamblers and chorus girls. In short, this show was everything Guys and Dolls should be.

 

This musical is worth seeing just for the quartet of likable characters. Playing Detroit and Adelaide were Hayden Giles and Emily Dillard, respectively. Giles had the old timey New York accent down to a T, and Dillard's mannerisms and facial expressions could always be counted on to win a laugh. Beyond their individual performances, the couple played off each other incredibly well, with the funniest moments coming in their scenes together. Alongside them were the unlikely pair consisting of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown, played by Zion Jang and Tori Garcia. These two had a genuine chemistry (as Masterson would put it) as well as smooth vocals. Garcia flaunted her musical prowess and range in the duet "I'll Know," while Jang showed off his pipes in the showstopping number "Luck Be a Lady." There was no weakest link when it came to these four leads.

 

Despite the prominence of the two main couples, there were many other memorable characters throughout the show, thanks to a competent ensemble of performers. For example, Densmore Bartly played Nicely-Nicely Johnson, one of the gamblers. Bartly, like other ensemble members, went beyond the words in the script to put his own spin on the character. He also had everyone's toes tapping in the 11 o'clock number "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

 

The set consisted of periaktoids (rotating triangular pieces) which were spun to put the scene in either a New York street, Havana, or the sewers. There was also a second, higher level in front of a backlit skyline. Intricate details like running water or a slide for entering the sewer scene made the set a delight to look at. The costumes were not only pretty, but practical, as Adelaide and her dancers tore off articles of clothing in their numbers.

 

When you just want to sit back and enjoy a classic musical comedy with a happy ending, Fairfax High School has you covered. Thanks to talented leads, a committed ensemble, and strong technical elements, this production of Guys and Dolls sparkled in all of its crowd-pleasing glory.

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