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Swift Creek Mill's "Guys and Dolls" works, just don't look too deep.

The Guise of "Dolls"

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The four lead actors in Swift Creek Mill's production of "Guys and Dolls" are some of the best theater professionals around, and they help bring this classic old show to rousing life. Unfortunately, these four - two guys and two dolls - are hampered by a lack of assistance from the show's supporting players. Consequently, the scenes that focus on the romantic entanglements of the main players are peppy and pleasing but they are surrounded by indistinct and ordinary ones, like shiny new pennies in a pocketful of spare change. Frank Loesser's 1950 musical is populated with a large cast of shysters and sweethearts, but the top guys are suave gambler Sky Masterson (Larry Cook) and notorious crap-game organizer Nathan Detroit (Scott Wichmann). These two start the plot rolling with a bet on Masterson's chances of wooing goody-goody missionary Sarah Brown (Janine Marie Serresseque). While Masterson pursues Sarah, Detroit is busy finding a location for his game, while simultaneously putting off his increasingly demanding fiancée, Miss Adelaide (Robyn O'Neill). Every doll ends up with a guy before it's all over, but not before a whirlwind trip from the nightclubs of Havana to the sewers of Manhattan. As Masterson, Cook has never seemed as poised and debonair, his velvet baritone casting a spell over Sarah and the audience. Cook employs an effective low-key style in his portrayal of the high-rolling Masterson, while the wiry Wichmann uses his nimble comic charm in delivering a Detroit who's less a gangster and more of a scamp. Serresseque's golden voice distinguishes her otherwise white-bread character —that, and the moxie the actress shows in the Havana nightclub scenes. And, while O'Neill's "stripper with a heart of gold" character is a cliché, the red-haired actress proves irresistible as Miss Adelaide. It's only when you get past this first tier of talent that things get fuzzy. In the hard-boiled story that Damon Runyon wrote that is the show's foundation, the author provided a wide variety of types to play. But in Mill's production, many subsidiary characters are virtually interchangeable, the gangsters and other low-lifes all blending together. The ensemble does fine when it is only functioning as human scenery, particularly in the lively dance numbers capably choreographed by Robin Arthur. But when forced to delineate a character, no one seems able to step forward out of the masses. Director Tom Width keeps the pace moving nicely, though the hurry-up ending seems a bit brisk. Width's simple set design proves highly adaptable, effectively evoking half-a-dozen locales. In his recorded rendering of big ensemble tunes like "Luck Be A Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," musical director Paul Deiss captures the sounds of an orchestra but not the textures. This makes the smaller, softer songs like "Adelaide's Lament" and "I'll Know" the most enjoyable. The appealing qualities that have made "Guys and Dolls" a perennial favorite - wiseguy humor and memorable songs - are here and the first-string players do a great job. Just don't look for a lot of bench strength.

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