Ericka Lee as Adelaide belts out a song during a performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Perseverance Theatre on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Ericka Lee as Adelaide belts out a song during a performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Perseverance Theatre on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Review: ‘Guys and Dolls’ a whole bushel of fun

Perseverance Theatre’s production of the classic packs plenty of fun

Perseverance Theatre’s “Guys and Dolls” is a lot like the gamblers involved in the musical’s pair of plot-driving romances, it’s totally infatuating despite some evident flaws.

Those shortcomings can be chalked up to the hoary tropes inherent to the almost 70-year-old source material, while its charm comes from crackling performances from the production’s leads and excellent music.

Enrique Bravo, James Sullivan, Allison Holtkamp and Ericka Lee respectively kill it as high-roller Sky Masterson, desperate hustler Nathan Detroit, steely missionary Sarah Brown and the lovelorn perpetual fiancee Miss Adelaide.

Holtkamp and Lee were particularly great at adding depth and agency to characters that were written more as obstacles than as emotive people.

Holtkamp’s take on Sarah Brown is a fiery sermonizer who makes a choice to be charmed by Bravo’s Masterson and Lee’s Adelaide steals scenes with manic energy, a thick New Yawhk accent and “Save me, Popeye” vocal warbles.

Ericka Lee and Adelaide and Allison Holtkamp as Sarah Brown sing during a performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Perseverance Theatre on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Ericka Lee and Adelaide and Allison Holtkamp as Sarah Brown sing during a performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Perseverance Theatre on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Those performances make the behavior of “Guys and Dolls” male characters —particularly Nathan Detroit’s gas-lighting — scan as extra hurtful through 2019 eyes, but it’s probably appropriate to dislike key players in a semi-organized crime ring.

Despite his character’s penchant for manipulating and hurting friends and loved ones at all times, Sullivan is delightfully smarmy as Nathan Detroit and sells the idea that the crooked character possesses mostly unseen redemptive qualities.

James Sullivan, left, as Nathan Detroit faces some heat from Felix Thillet, middle, as Harry the Horse and Evan Carson, right, as Big Jule during a performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Perseverance Theatre on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

James Sullivan, left, as Nathan Detroit faces some heat from Felix Thillet, middle, as Harry the Horse and Evan Carson, right, as Big Jule during a performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Perseverance Theatre on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Bravo plays his also morally dubious high-stakes bettor with enough sincerity to make his character’s improbable arc work.

[Perseverance Theatre’s latest is a classic musical with a modern mindset]

Supporting characters added flourishes of humor and some truly impressive dance moves throughout.

Michael T. Gamble as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Stacy Katasse’s General Cartwright inspired mid-song sounds of appreciation during a rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” in my section of the theater.

“Guys and Dolls” unassailable songs also go a long way toward making the production incredibly enjoyable — even though I feel personally attacked by lyrics belittling “breakfast-eating Brooks Brothers” types.

That’s thanks to the commendable vocal abilities of the cast, and a great big boost from the accompanying live music courtesy of a crackerjack band of local musicians.

The small ensemble added swagger to every number and went a long way toward ensuring the show’s Havana and New York City settings felt drastically different.

[Photo Slideshow: “Guys and Dolls” ]

The conclusion of every song was met with applause at the Thursday show, I caught, and a standing ovation at the play’s conclusion.

It was all deserved.

2020 vision

While Perseverance Theatre’s 40th season isn’t over yet — “Guys and Dolls” runs through April 14, and “The Underpants” will open mid-May — the 2019-2020 season was announced at the beginning of Thursday’s show.

The upcoming season will feature four productions compared to this year’s five, and the schedule includes a classic title, a couple of world premieres and an inventive musical.

Folk Fest guest artists will bring southwestern flare and sounds to Juneau]

“Devilfish” is set to run Sept. 20-Oct.12, and it is one of the world premiere’s. It’s set in prehistoric Alaska, and it tells the story of the young lone survivor of a sea monster attack.

“With” is also a world premiere and is planned to run Nov. 22-Dec. 15. The wintry play depicts the holiday season tribulations for a couple that include a blizzard, a rat in a Christmas tree and grief.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” based on the Ken Kesey novel, is slated for Jan. 10-Feb. 2. It tells the familiar story of a clash between mental ward patient Randle P. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.

Last on the schedule is the musical “Fun Home,” which features music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, and is based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel. It runs March 27-April 26 and tells the story of growing up in a dysfunctional family in the funeral business.

Perseverance Theatre subscriptions are on sale, and they includea new super flex option for $180 that works like a punch-card: patrons can select their dates and seats closer to performance times, roll over any unused seats, or combine them to attend with guests. Regular subscriptions at early discount prices, valid through May 31, range from $75-$100 for students, $110-$150 for senior adults and military, and $125-$165 for adults, depending on preferred dates.

The theater’s website, www.ptalaska.org, has more details about subscription perks.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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