REVIEW: Guys and Dolls

8:00pm • Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 • Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

This Saturday’s performance of Guys and Dolls was one of the best musicals I have seen on campus. SMTD’s production staff, crew, and performers breathed life into the classic “Broadway fable” through their thoughtful and critical treatment of the 70-year-old subject matter, while remaining true to the musical’s original humor and optimism. 

First and foremost, the cast’s performance was exceptional. The actors embodied their characters with charisma and authenticity, making them relatable despite some of the more dated stereotypes. Their command over dialects transported us to the streets of New York, and their chemistry on stage gave the story’s romances real gravity that completely absorbed my attention. In particular, I was blown away by Alex Humphreys’ soprano (just like I was in last semester’s production of Rent!) in “I’ll Know” and literally all of her songs afterwards. 

I loved how the set and costume design expertly combined to craft a convincing world onstage, without visually overwhelming the talent of the actors. When the curtain rose at the beginning of the performance for “Runyonland,” the sparsity of the stage put the spotlight on the orchestra for a few well-deserved moments. An unexpected sense of excitement and anticipation overtook me as the curtain lifted a second time, revealing the blinking neon signs of Broadway and immersing me in the production’s vibrant atmosphere. 

Despite Guys and Dolls being a product of its time, based on the archetypes developed in Damon Runyon’s 1920s and ’30s stories about the New York underworld and Broadway, SMTD managed to navigate this delicate terrain with finesse. The show’s dramaturgs thoughtfully interpreted some of the more outdated themes in the show, making it relevant and engaging for a modern audience. I especially appreciated the incorporation of informational placards in the hallway, shedding light on the broader social context of the era. These additions offered audiences a deeper understanding of historical context like the LGBTQ+ scene in 1950s New York and the nascent Civil Rights Movement, adding layers of depth to the narrative we saw in the play.

In conclusion, SMTD’s Guys and Dolls was a resounding success on all fronts. The students’ dedication and talent elevated every aspect of the production, from the outstanding musical performances to the impeccable set and costume design. I was impressed by the production’s ability to breathe new life into a classic while addressing its historical context with sensitivity. 

If you haven’t yet seen Guys and Dolls, you still have the opportunity to buy tickets for this Thursday, Friday, or Saturday’s performances, and I urge you to do so! You might see me there as well!

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