If you seek to know the quintessence of that entertainment biz mantra, "the really big show," look no further than Guys and Dolls. Nothing petite here. The songs are long-established standards, and the characters are larger and weirder than life.
Broadway pundit Damon Runyon gave them names like Nathan Detroit, Benny Southstreet and Nicely Nicely Johnson. The era they inhabit is more or less the late 1940s. But, in truth, the world of these dice rolling, long-shot betting guys and their "dolls" never existed outside of Runyon's agile imagination.
So what? A glittering new national touring production, presented by Dallas Summer Musicals at the Music Hall in Fair Park invites you to hop aboard this rowdy roller coaster. Frank Loesser's score is given first-rate treatment by the singers and a brassy orchestra under the baton of Mark Hartman.
Ben Crawford and Erin Davie are compelling romantic leads. He's the flamboyant Sky Masterson, so nick-named because the sky is the limit of his wagers. She's Sarah, the Save-a-Soul Mission worker. When will they click, romantically? They conclude that "I'll Know," a soaring duet that showcases both her soprano and his baritone pipes.
Davie later exhibits comic skill as a tipsy Sarah on "If I Were a Bell." Crawford's big number, of course, is the crap shooters' anthem, "Luck Be a Lady." He delivers it smashingly with the aid of choreographer Patti Colombo's nimble dance ensemble.
Dancing is a big deal in this staging, starting with the opening "Runyonland," in which dancers and oddball character types prowl Kate Sutton-Johnson's gaudy set with athletic grace.
Megan Sikora and Steve Rosen strike the appropriate sparks as the comic romantic leads. Rosen plays Nathan Detroit more fey than tradition, but he gets the laughs. And he does a fine job with the gambler chorus on "The Oldest Established (Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York)."
Sikora affects the proper squeaky voice as Miss Adelaide, Nathan's fiancée of 14 years. She and Rosen partner winningly on "Sue Me." Later, Sikora and Davie join vocal and comic forces on "Marry the Man Today."
The latter is one of composer Loesser's delicious little vocal duels. Another is "Fugue for Tinhorns," performed masterfully by Glenn Rainey, Garth Kravitz and Todd Horman.
Rainey, as Nicely Nicely, is a delight throughout. On opening night earlier this week, he presided over one of those rare electric moments in live theater. After he led the ensemble on "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," applause was so prolonged that only the entrance of Michael Scott as an intruding police lieutenant prevented the show from stopping in its tracks.
Jamie Ross brings wit and warmth and a gentle Scots burr to the role of Arvide Abernathy, Sarah's grandfather. It has been more than a few summer stock seasons since the dashing, raven-haired Ross starred in Camelot at Fort Worth's Casa Mañana. The hair is white now, but the voice is strong and tender on "More I Cannot Wish You."
This is a long show. But Gordon Greenberg's direction is brisk, and the pace never lags.