It was with high hopes that Fiorella accompanied Husband to the Palace Theater's production of Guys and Dolls. Fio loves the show, especially since she played General Cartwright in a production many years ago in an Austin civic theater. But the characterization of General Cartwright fell short, and the production didn't hang together either.
Everything was too loud. Fio has long insisted that actors do not need personal voice amplifiers in a venue as small as the Palace. Using them means that the band has to be amped up too. In fact, it seemed at times the actors and the band were in a contest--and the band was winning.
But enough about that. Let's move on to the costumes, which were a weird anachronistic mix, and the sets and staging, which Fio thought were pretty good. However, nothing could save that long, dull New York street scene that opened the production, and throughout the play, the pacing seemed uneven--so fast one missed important turning points or so slow one started watching the byplays instead of the major action.
The male dance numbers were really good, but when the whole cast was out on the floor, too much was going on. Again--where should one look? And where the heck was the theater's premier choreographer, Jessee Smart?
Not only did General C's characterization seem off, but Fio thought Sarah was too strident. Maybe the director was trying to update the play, but Sarah would have fared better as a softie than an angry feminist. And there was NO, absolutely NO chemistry between her and Sky Masterson.
Minor problems that were irritating: Sarah's golden wig that looked like a wig, flubbed dialogue, ill-fitting costumes, what seemed to be bald spots in Sky's hair, Nicely-Nicely's mike crackling, a spindly ninth grader cast against type as Big Julie, and the band frequently being out of tune with each other (tenor sax?).
Fiorella wondered if the problem was that the play is outdated, that Damon Runyan doesn't have it anymore. But then she found herself singing the songs all the way home--songs like "Fugue for Tinhorns," "Bushel and a Peck," "Luck Be a Lady," and, her favorite, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." Maybe there's hope for Gays and Dolls yet, "somewhere, somehow...."