By PAM HARBAUGH
Surfside Playhouse’s production of “Guys and Dolls,” reminds us why this wonderful show deserves to be one of American musical theater’s classics…and it also reminds us why Brevard community theater loves Arlan Ropp so much (more on that below).
With music and lyrics by musical theater legends Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, the story about gamblers and the women who love them is filled with fun, jaunty attitude and verve. This romantic comedy is based on Damon Runyan characters and set in the 1930s in a dicey stretch of Broadway in New York City (oh, so long before Disney turned Times Square into a tourist destination). It follows two gamblers: Finagling Nathan Detroit and his ditsy fiancee of 14 years, a nightclub performer named Adelaide; and handsome Sky Masterson, who, on a bet, chases Sarah Brown, a do-good Salvation Army style missionary intent on saving souls.
Directed by Bryan Bergeron, music directed by Dorothy Wright and choreographed by Arlene Southerland, Surfside’s production moves with efficiency and at the same time tugs at the heart strings. The engaging direction of the opening number, “Fugue for Tinhorns” (as in…”Got the horse right here, his name is Paul Revere”) gets the audience in the right mood for this wonderful musical. It’s performed with dash and humor by Chris Tsocanos, John Kurowski and Rob Dickman, a very good singer who paints an endearing portrayal of “Nicely-Nicely” and nearly stops the show with his second act number “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”
Jack Maloney lets both a tough and soft side show in his role of Nathan Detroit and endears as an unlikely romantic hero. And as Miss Adelaide, Becky Behl-Hill is a solid winner (despite that matronly wig). Her humor and comic timing makes Miss Adelaide a dizzy delight. And, it’s just great to see someone past the ingenue stage cast in this role. It makes total sense and adds a lot more oomph to the character’s lament of being engaged 14 years already (!). Moreover, on opening weekend, Ms. Behl-Hill was suffering with a real cold but showed her strong actor’s heart, never missing a note, never a beat…and it added a touch more humor when she sang “A person, could develop a cough…”As Sky Masterson, Damon Dennin not only lets his leading man quality shine, but surprises with a his good singing voice. Ember Everett finds the sweet spot to Sarah Brown and shines in her musical numbers, especially “If I Were a Bell.”
But…really…this show belongs, hands down, to Arlan Ropp, a tireless Brevard community theater veteran who appears here as Arvide Abernathy, Sarah Brown’s loving grandfather. Mr. Ropp has a few lines advancing action and supporting character. However, when Arvide sings to Sarah the wise words in “More I Cannot Wish You,” there’s hardly a dry eye in the house. His interpretation of the song is sincere and loving, creating a real moment on stage for the character, the actor and the audience. Bravo, Mr. Ropp!
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Guys and Dolls” runs through Feb. 7 at Surfside Playhouse, 301 Ramp Road, Cocoa Beach. Tickets are $22 general, $20 senior and military and $17 student. Call 321-783-3127 or visit SurfsidePlayers.com.