COHOES — C-R Production’s charming “Guys and Dolls” at Cohoes Music Hall proves that this is a troupe that deserves to stay alive.
Karin Mason’s spot-on costume designs — of sharp-suited gamblers, slinky floozies and uptight do-gooders — brilliantly evoked 1940s New York. Christopher George Patterson’s dazzling choreography — and the accuracy and energy of the ensemble — filled the stage with vitality and fresh, vivid movements. But the stand out of this production is LoriAnn Freda’s Miss Adelaide.
Every time she’s onstage, she commands it with her wonderful presence, great comic timing, her screechy Brooklynesque nasal voice (that, somehow, was never annoying), and her obvious talents as a singer and dancer, especially in the show-stopping numbers “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink.”
Those two great showpieces take place at the dance hall where Adelaide works, The Hot Box, but they do nothing to advance the plot. The engine of the story centers around a bet by two gamblers. Nathan Detroit (played with wit and energy by Paul C. Kelly) wagers $1,000 that Sky Masterson (Joshua Phan-Gruber, who has a wonderfully natural singing voice) can’t get do-gooder Sarah Brown (Christina King) to go on a date.
Even though the Sky-Sarah relationship propels the plot, most of the stage time is given over to Nathan and Adelaide, who have been engaged for 14 years. Perhaps it is because of this structure of this 1950’s work that the first act seems to drag.
The number “Guys and Dolls” in Act 1 (which features Bryan Robinson as Nicely and Mark Burgasser as Benny), for example, lacks the verve of Act 2’s “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” (in which Robinson nearly steals the show with an assist from Carol Charniga as General Cartwright).
Also in Act 1, the love songs between Sky and Sarah (“My Time of Day” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”) revealed not just two characters coming together, but two singing styles that didn’t quite mesh. King has a wonderfully powerful voice, but it verges on operatic colors, while Phan-Gruber’s naturalism put him more in line with musical theater. The difference made their relationship seem forced. In Act 2, however, and in probably the best song of the show, “Sue Me” pits Nathan and Adelaide against each other in a love song that showcases their differences — her parts are staccato and accusatory; his are slow and bemoaning — and yet it works to show that they belong together.
Despite these quibbles, this production, directed by C-R Production’s managing director Tony Rivera, offers plenty to enjoy and admire.
Earlier this month, Rivera and Jim Charles, the artistic director, issued a cry for help, saying the troupe’s 10th season wouldn’t be able to continue unless they can fill a $75,000 budget gap by Aug. 15. As of Thursday night, they had gotten $41,000. If you care about quality theater, show your support by seeing the show.
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“Guys and Dolls”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes, with one intermission
Continues: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 3 p.m. Saturday, Sunday
Info: 518-237-5858; http://www.cohoesmusichall.com