Guys and Dolls: Don’t bet on this production

In Guys and Dolls, three gamblers sing about the horses they're betting on.

The singing—including in “Fugue for Tinhorns” (with Jason Lam, Colton Fyfe, and Argel Monte de Ramos)—is the most consistent success in this production. (Photo by Jennifer Suratos)

The musical Guys and Dolls is immortal, which means that it will survive this production.

Based on stories by Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls is set in New York in the ‘30s in the underworld of gambling. Nathan Detroit, who runs a floating crap game, bets high-roller Sky Masterson that he won’t be able to date the pious Salvation Army sargeant Sarah Brown. Meanwhile, Nathan has been engaged to Adelaide, who is the star performer at the Hot Box Club, for 14 years—and Adelaide is getting antsy.

Every song in this musical is perfection. “Fugue for Tinhorns”, the first number, establishes the overall tone of brilliantly polished brass. The intertwining melodic lines support witty lyrics as three gamblers choose which horses to bet on: “I know it’s Valentine/The morning work looks fine/Besides the jockey’s brother’s a friend of mine.” “Adelaide’s Lament”, in which Adelaide explains the psychosomatic origins of her chronic cold, is one of the great character songs of all time.  And Sarah’s “If I Were a Bell”, which she sings when she falls in love with Sky while on a date in Havana, is so purely ecstatic it could be sung by a thrush. [Read more…]

This Spelling Bee is a holiday in innocence

Ryan Mooney directed Spelling Bee for Fighting Chance.

There’s an impressive line-up of talent in Fighting Chance Productions’ 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

If you need a holiday in innocence, check out The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The musical features three eccentric adults, but it’s the vulnerability of its six quirky kid characters that makes the piece so charming. As they compete against one another in a spelling contest, these preadolescents wear their hearts on their sleeves. You can’t help but feel for Logainne as she strains to avoid disappointing her ambitious gay dads. The home-schooled Leaf lives up to the hippie eccentricity of his name, wearing a helmet and cape at all times and communicating through a sock puppet that has more confidence than he does. And, although her parents have essentially abandoned her, Olive generously befriends the gruff, insecure William. [Read more…]

Now or Later: shiny but nonsensical

Christopher Shinn's Now or Later feels like an undergraduate seminar.

In Now or Later, things get rocky for a potential First Son, who is gay—and, more importantly, clueless.

On its surface, Now or Later is a shiny political object. But, at least in this interpretation, the play doesn’t make sense.

This mounting from Fighting Chance Productions is beyond timely. The story takes place on the eve of an American presidential election. We’re in John’s hotel room. He’s the son of the Democratic president-elect and John Sr.’s staff is desperately trying to put out a political fire. John started it. On the Internet, fuzzy pictures have surfaced of John and his friend Matt at a party at their Ivy League university. John is dressed as Mohammed and Matt as a popular evangelical Christian preacher named Pastor Bob. The staff members and John’s parents all want John to issue an apology, but he refuses, insisting that doing so would restrict his freedom of expression. [Read more…]

Cats: the pleasures of feline drag

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Cats, Fighting Chance Productions

It’s not that I’ve become a furry or anything, but I’ve begun to understand the appeal of dressing up like a cat.

I never thought I’d live to hear myself say this, but the show to catch this weekend is Cats.

I have never been a fan of Cats, which has always struck me as commercially gimmicky—and mostly tuneless. But seeing Fighting Chance Productions mounting in close quarters at the Jericho Arts Centre has made me reconsider.

With the harmonies rolling over you in waves of sound you can practically feel, and with the talented, exuberant cast having a whole lot of fun right in front of you, the musical becomes much harder to resist.

In fact, I got into that “Everything is beautiful at the ballet” mindset. Yes, Cats is totally weird—a revue with existential feline overtones—but, viewed from the right angle, that oddness is charming. There are a bunch of adults playing dress-up, purring and preening, and coughing up hairballs—essentially for the fun of it. Cool.

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