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Cappies: 'Guys and Dolls' is a winner at Pattonville

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2013 - Combine a set of gambling guys and a group of dreamy dolls and the result is the cherished musical comedy “Guys and Dolls,” produced by Pattonville High School. The production certainly “rocked the boat” with its outstanding technical and performance features.

Opening on Broadway in 1950, “Guys and Dolls” ran for 1,200 performances and won all five of its Tony nominations, including Best Musical. The story follows Nathan Detroit and his fiancée of 14 years, Adelaide, as he avoids his impending marriage. As Nathan attempts to host his annual game of craps, the arrival of the cunning Sky Masterson sets off a chain of complications. A bet soon arises involving Sky’s pursuit of the hardhearted, soul-saving Sarah Brown. As the two love stories intertwine and cross the paths of dozens of comical characters, uproarious pandemonium ensues.

Leading the large cast was Anna Pirrie and Aaron Landgraf as Adelaide and Nathan, who brilliantly displayed the voice and physicality of their characters. Pirrie captivated the audience with her eccentric character in numbers such as “Adelaide’s Lament.” Landgraf proved to epitomize physical comedy with vivacious energy and bold, audacious character choices. Reciprocating their success was Kalen Riley and Sarah Vik as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown. Both possessed beautiful voices and fitting characterization toward one another, displayed in their romantic duet “I’ve Never Been In Love Before.”

The leading characters were supported by a large ensemble of distinct characters. Specifically in Act Two, the entire cast escalated the energy for the show-stopping “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” led by the incredible vocals of Kyle Baldwin as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. In addition, sidesplitting one-liners came from Shawn Houston as Big Jule, who maximized his stage time with his commanding presence.

Technical elements successfully supported the excellent acting onstage. Most notably were Elizabeth Watson’s fantastic lighting designs. The spotlights were perfectly timed with the actors onstage, and atmospheric lighting changes vividly swept the audience onto the streets of New York City. In addition, the stage crew, led by Megan Willingham and Ming Chan, swiftly moved large set pieces on and off stage a number of times, moving the action along with excellent precision.

Despite the overwhelming success of the production, several problems were encountered. Many times, the large stage was not adequately utilized. Also, some members of the cast at times lacked energy. However, the performance flaws were balanced by the striking characterization and vocalization of a majority of the company. Technically, sound provided several issues, as some principal actors’ microphones were not functioning. However, the projection of the actors conquered this issue, as their clear vocals and line delivery were easily heard throughout.

If “luck” were a “lady,” she certainly endorsed the students of Pattonville High School in their production of “Guys and Dolls.” Whether it be luck, or perhaps sheer skill, Pattonville’s production, filled with comedy and vivacity and bound by talent, is a delightful reminder of the lengths a “guy” will go for a “doll.”

Nathan Hinds is a student at Holt High School. The Cappies program works with students who review high school theatrical productions.