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No Joke, Guys & Dolls at Encore is Super April 3, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Theatre.
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OK, let me start this by saying, I really hate the musical Guys & Dolls — it’s boring to watch, it seems endless, and it’s always more fun to perform in than to watch its (almost) three hour length. It’s overdone, and would be my last choice of a musical if I were asked to pick something exciting for a company to perform.

That being said — Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter MI is putting on a dandy production of the show. It’s everything their initial offering, Evita, was not.

From direction to choreography, lighting, set design, and costumes, this show sings and works hard to entertain. The leads are super, and there is a much more fluid transition from Professional actors to amateurs in this well-done production.

Using the same basic scaffolding set, completely redesigned and reimagined from Evita, the show sparkles from start to finish.

Sure, there are still some clunkers in the show — the orchestra was consistently out of tune — a bigger problem in Evita, but still problematic here – complete with a few trumpet blats that were quite noticeable on opening night — note to Brian: cut the overture — it highlights an out of sync orchestra that all the best piano playing in the world can’t overcome…

The cast is small — too small for the show. It doesn’t have enough guys, and it shows. A few weeks after casting, Encore was still sending out e-mail notices seeking more guys for the show. Apparently not too many answered the call….curiously, the show is too low on Dolls as well and could have easily used another 4 men and 4 women.

Director/Choreographer Barbara Cullen fills the blackbox space admirably with well directed, and well-thought-out movement. Much better than Evita which was both too small and too large for the space.

Some of the casting is inconsistent, but none of it as jarringly community theatre as Encore’s last production. Here, the ensemble is used efficiently, they sing and move well, and except for one or two truly hammy line readings, is indeed more professional in caliber.

Holly Davis makes a fine Adelaide — Thalia Schramm a fine Sarah.  Tobin Hissong is very funny in the part of Nathan Detroit. The real standout here is sultry-voiced baritone Paul Jason Green as Sky Masterson. His performance is musical theatre perfection. His scenes together with Thalia are warm, heartfelt, and their crooning together superb.

Remember that name: Paul Jason Green.

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Opening night had at least one third of an empty house — and based on people’s experience with Evita, you know why — they are waiting to see the reviews for this time-worn and haggard piece of musical theatre that has been performed recently by at least 13 different theatres within a 20 mile radius in the last few years…..well, you get the idea.

Who picked this season for Encore??

GO SEE THE SHOW! It’s Super, and it is a fine evening of theatre. Encore has moved from Community Theatre schlock to semi-professional theatre with this outing. I am very happy to report this, since Evita was appalling.

No joke — it won me over within the magic first 15 minutes and kept me there consistently throughout the evening.

For the Record…GUYS & DOLLS (recent production, not all productions included):

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre (2006) – Young People’s Theatre (2008) – University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (2003) – Park Players Plymouth (2003) – Ann Arbor Pioneer High School (2002) – Washtenaw Community College Musical Theatre Program (2001) – University of Michigan Musket (1999) – Saline Area Players (1999) – Croswell Opera House (1997) – Eastern Michigan University (1997)- Ann Arbor Huron High School (1995)…

And that is the view from Ann Arbor today…

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