Review by Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
Gambling in the sewers, lunching in Cuba, and flirting in the Save-A-Soul Mission building— "Guys and Dolls" contains all of the irreverent tomfoolery that the 1950's lacked. In an extremely successful reproduction of a classical musical, Randall K. Cooper brought to life all of the hilarious whimsy of this New York caricature.
"Guys and Dolls" is a 1950 musical based on several short stories written by Damon Runyon. It tells the story of Nathan Detroit, a gambler trying to set up a crap game for his New York City friends. The desired venue is too expensive, so in a desperate attempt to collect cash, he bets Sky Masterson, an avid bettor, that he cannot take Sarah Brown, the sergeant of a local mission, to Havana for dinner. Through an odd progression of events that takes Sarah Brown to Cuba, the gamblers to the mission, and the crap game into the sewers of New York, "Guys and Dolls" explores the complicated relationships between men and women, and even questions the institution of marriage itself.
Two couples led the show: Mission Sergeant Sarah Brown (Erin Hubbard) and bettor Sky Masterson (Samuel Jamison); and Gambler Nathan Detroit (Trenton Anspach) and showgirl Miss Adelaide (Kiki Pastor-Richard). Hubbard and Jamison had charming chemistry; their scenes in Havana were particularly potent. Jamison was an excellent actor, his vocal prowess and tap dance abilities shining through in "Luck Be a Lady." Anspach and Pastor-Richard were equally charming, portraying well the lighthearted, bickering characteristic of old married couples— especially funny given that most of their arguments pertained to the length of their engagement.
The secondary characters were delightful, helping to build the quirky and eccentric image of the overly jovial gangster scene in New York. Wesley Baker was entertaining in his role as Lieutenant Brannigan, always there to offer a comedic deadpan as the gamblers planned the crapshoot just under his nose. Hannah Richardson played the genderbent role of Nicely Nicely Johnson with zest, her vocal and dancing skills lending themselves well to the song "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," arguably the most upbeat number of the show.
Several of the technical elements were extremely successful. The hair and makeup, designed by Haley Barth, was lovely and subtle, both period and unobtrusive to the show. The transformation of Hannah Richardson was particularly impressive, the progression from long, blonde hair to short, dark hair allowing her to blend in seamlessly. The set was simple and attractive, glowing LED signs imitating the glow of the city that never sleeps. This was aided by projections, which, although occasionally on the wrong slide, helped to portray the setting.
The orchestra was also worth mentioning. In-time, upbeat, and enthusiastic, no show can go on without the orchestrations beneath it. The percussion trio (Aaron Coffenberry, Noah Richardson, and Corey Eversole) was hardworking and extremely capable, and Brian Chu immersed himself in the upright bass before the lights could even dim for the curtain speech. Most notably, the trumpets (Brooklyn Fritsch, Laura McMullen, and Allyson Kentley) were bold, brassy, and a brilliant addition to the small orchestra.
The joy of Golden Age musicals is their lighthearted handle on dark themes. Randall K. Cooper's "Guys and Dolls" discussed the pitfalls of gambling, the difficulty of marriage, and gender roles with a touch of tap dance illuminated in radiant New York City lights.
Review by Brooke Yates, Larry A. Ryle High School Cappies Critic Team
Having first premiered on Broadway in 1950, "Guys and Dolls" is a Golden Era musical that still stuns audiences to this day with its unique charms and compelling score. Telling the story of two consequential couples and their journeys through romance, gambling, and religion, the show puts the New York of the past into new perspective and introduces a cast of characters both suave and outrageous. Randall K. Cooper High School executed the performance with a splendidly delicate nature, accentuating each character's quirks and highlighting the setting with crew elements as fresh as the dark time that Sky Masterson loves so dearly.
The iconic smooth-talking gambler himself was played in this production by Samuel Jamison. Jamison met both the vocal challenge, as well as the delightful tap dancing required for his role, very well. His love interest, Sarah Brown, played by Erin Hubbard, complimented his acting, singing, and dancing ability with her own, mastering her absurd soprano notes while still maintaining her character's established sass and stubborn nature. Kiki Pastor-Richard as Miss Adelaide faced a similar challenge in maintaining character, due to her role's ever overwhelming New York accent. Fortunately, she performed the accent to perfection as well as contributing her phenomenal vocal ability and snappy reaction time to any incidents that might have occurred on stage. Pastor-Richard made sure that no hat would drop without it becoming a part of the show - a talent that any true actress should possess. Her counterpart, Nathan Detroit played by Trenton Anspach, only added to her glorious performance through the consistent quality of his own, bringing his own spark to the flame of his part.
Another notable performance was Hannah Richardson's depiction of the male character, Nicely Nicely Johnson. Her exciting interactions onstage stole the show, leaving her character to be completely irresistible. Needless to say, her solo number in Act 2 was a very well- deserved moment in the spotlight. The rest of the ensemble really mastered their creativity through intricate character intentions and constant shenanigans - and that high praise comes before even saying a word about the nine student-choreographed dance numbers. Overall, whether gambler or Salvation Army member; sinner or saint, the cast of this performance really won every bet thrown their direction.
It was the crew, however, that really took this production to Havana and back. The show maintained great quality from the beginning, with charming publicity and an absolutely incredible orchestra, all the way to the very last special effect projection - a choice made by the director to establish quicker scene changes so as not to hinder the settings development. Make-up, hair, and costuming also helped to characterize this depiction of New York, all elements staying very time-period accurate which made for a refreshing addition to the show's already genuine nature. As a final enhancement, the props served as the icing on the strudel, with newspapers, strollers, and various other randomized objects never failing to impress, just like the production itself!
As you can see, Randall K. Cooper High School really had an ace up their sleeve with this performance. Celebrating the iconic marks of the characters and the city that was transformed into their playground, the students really made good on the show's endearing promises, leaving no more to be wished for in a production of "Guys and Dolls."
Reeya Dighe, Walnut Hills High School
Set in the bustling streets of New York City, "Guys and Dolls" tells the overlapping stories of notorious gamblers, Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, and the women who love them. An inadvertent result of a hasty bet, Sky falls for the buttoned-up and straitlaced missionary Sarah Brown, who at first, shows no interest in him. Nathan, engaged to Miss Adelaide for fourteen years, struggles with not only his search for a location for his craps game, but also with staving off Miss Adelaide's constant nudges towards marriage. Despite a few hurdles, both guys end up marrying their dolls, Sky now a reformed and devout member of the mission, and Nathan a domesticated and doting husband.
Randall K. Cooper High School tackled this challenging piece with energy and enthusiasm, delivering a creative take on this Golden Age classic. Complete with a demanding score and intricate dance numbers, ""Guys and Dolls presents an arduous task both performance and design-wise. The cast, crew, and orchestra admirably rose to the challenge, giving a charming and energetic production.
The lead performers anchored the piece with their powerful vocals and larger-than-life presence. Kiki Pastor-Richard, in the role of Miss Adelaide, seamlessly embodied the role of the Hot Box headliner with a consistent New York accent and robust voice that resonated clearly through the space. Opposite her, Erin Hubbard, in the role of Sarah Brown, provided the perfect foil to Miss Adelaide's raunchy and outgoing character. Hubbard's delicate voice, coupled with her soft stage presence, effectively contributed to the dichotomous nature of the piece.
The supporting cast added dimension, humor, and animation to this challenging plot. Hannah Richardson, in the role of Nicely Nicely Johnson, impeccably rose to the challenge of playing a role typically filled by a male. Through mellow and consistent vocals and seamlessly farcical humor, Richardson shined in numbers such as "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat" and "Guys and Dolls". Alongside her, featured dancer Austin Mills demonstrated a strong grasp of the choreography, filling the stage with his energy and presence.
Comprised mainly of students, the "Guys and Dolls" Orchestra expertly handled a demanding score without a single hiccup. From rhythmically challenging tap numbers to slower, emotional numbers, the orchestra skillfully kept up with the cast.
Through powerful performances and creative technical design, Randall K. Cooper High School delivered an entertaining take on a Golden Age classic. The cast and crew truly left it all on stage in an energetic and enthusiastic performance.
Excerpts from Top Reviews
“Leading the story, Samuel Jamison and Erin Hubbard's performances as the loving couple Sky and Sarah were fantastic. Hubbard's pure soprano vocals matched perfectly with the Golden Age music as well as Jamison's smooth baritone voice. Both actors had palpable chemistry, creating a believable love story full of happiness and heartache.”
-Matthew Eggers, Walnut Hills High School
“The costumes, headed by Tori Glass and Hayley Barth, served the production extremely well. Although matching chorus-girl outfits abounded, the highlight of the crew's work was the multitude of suits. Gangsters navigated the stage in a slew of suits in various plaid patterns, many of which were put together by the crew themselves.” -Clare Brennan, Walnut Hills High School
“Sarah Brown, played by Erin Hubbard, was quite good as well, with a nice singing voice and, in particular, being convincingly drunk during her song, "If I Were a Bell." Nathan Detroit (Trenton Anspach) pulled off his gambler character admirably, showing his focus on making money as well as being fairly funny ("Is that a crime? Yeah."). And Sky Masterson (Samuel Jamison) showed off both his hardcore and sweeter side.”
-Lee Garber-Ford, Taylor High School
“Often, period-specific pieces can be challenging to pull off due to the need for technical elements that illustrate well the time period. However, the students at Randall K. Cooper High School overcame this hurdle with expertise and elegance. The costumes, designed by Tori Glass and Haley Barth, left no room for imperfection, as they perfectly reflected 1920's American style. Each and every member of the cast had a costume (or costumes) that matched their character perfectly and fit them remarkably well.”
-Aiden Litmer, Walnut Hills High School
“Matching Hubbard's clean and clear vocals was Samuel Jamison, who played Sky Masterson. Jamison displayed a confident air, not thinking twice about making a bet with Nathan. During Jamison's dynamic peak in "Luck Be a Lady," he revitalized the grungy gamblers with his fancy footwork. Nicely Nicely Johnson, Hannah Richardson, keep humor alive in the rather frustrating endeavor. Strolling into conflict, Richardson lit up scenes with the crunch of a celery stick.” -Courtney Reckelhoff, William Henry Harrison High School
“Also worth mentioning would be none other than Nicely Nicely Johnson, played by Hannah Richardson. This comedic actress brought to life onstage the humor and excitement of "Guys and Dolls" in everything from her body language to her humorous timing. Her solo song, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" rocked the entire theater.”
-Sydney Willis, Larry A. Ryle High School
“From the moment the first actors stepped on stage for the first scene, the audience immediately felt a part of the hustle and bustle of early 1900's New York, a testament to the talent and knowledge of the era by Molly Biddle, Claire Longo, Tori Glass, and Ekatarina Ritchie. The simple and clean sets also captured iconic New York City elements to emphasize the setting of the performance.” -Emma Roush, William Henry Harrison High School
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.