On Theater: These 'Dolls' roll a seven

Those "Guys and Dolls" from Damon Runyon's Broadway are back with us, and this time around, the dolls are putting on a clinic in vocal proficiency.

The venue on this occasion is the Huntington Beach Playhouse, where director Larry Watts (who also handles choreography, set designing and costumes) has assembled a highly enjoyable production heightened by the superior voices of its two leading ladies.

Most local theatergoers are familiar with the Mermanesque voice of Adriana Sanchez, Orange County's top female musical star, who shows off her comedic talents as the showgirl Miss Adelaide. Few, however, have heretofore partaken of the soaring soprano of Allison McGuire, who bounces her high notes off the ceiling as Sarah Brown, the "mission doll" who brings Sky Masterson down to earth.

Together, they offer twin highlights of a spirited revival, particularly when they're paired for their second-act duet, "Marry the Man Today," which may have been an afterthought by composer Frank Loesser but which glitters in the Huntington Beach production. These two ladies are the gold standard of local musical theater.

Individually, each is outstanding in her own specialty. McGuire offers a beautiful operatic touch to her segment of "I'll Know," though her transition in the Havana sequence could use more contrast (letting her hair down, perhaps). Sanchez sells her two "Adelaide's Lament" numbers with comedic punch and pizzazz to match her terrific vocal renditions.

Their "guys" are no slouches either. Chris Peduzzi is back for his eighth playhouse appearance, this time as uber-gambler Sky, who approaches McGuire's character on a bet and takes the traditional tumble. Peduzzi keeps his Sky well grounded, a cool, crafty customer who finally breaks out in his "Luck Be a Lady" number.

This leaves the scenery-chewing assignment to the Nathan Detroit character, and Kyle Myers excels as the inveterate hustler of the city's oldest established floating crap game. Myers seldom neglects an opportunity to inject physical comedy into his frustrated countenance.

Beyond the four principals, the show offers some pleasing character assignments. Anthony Barratta may be a bit young as Nicely Nicely Johnson, but he sells the role — and his "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" number — splendidly. James Greene solidly anchors the mission band as the sage Arvide Abernathy.

Mark Phillips, Jeffrey Black, David Lonky and Zachary Mittleman are comically energetic as the ensemble of gamblers, while John Gillies stands out as the perennially clueless cop assigned to bring them to justice. Dawn Vasco impresses as the formidable general who supervises the mission.

Technically, the production experienced a few glitches in the opening performance which should be ironed out for subsequent stagings. Lighting cues were tardy and the orchestral volume in the "Luck Be a Lady" number was virtually deafening.

While "Guys and Dolls" may be among the oldest, and most frequently revived, of the musical standards, its showmanship, under music director Mike Walker — who also turns in a fine uncredited turn as Chicago mobster Big Julie — still has a healthy kick to it, particularly when its "dolls" take the stage vocally.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.

If You Go

What: "Guys and Dolls"

Where: Huntington Beach Playhouse, Library Theater, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 11

Cost: $18 to $20

Information: (714) 375-0696

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