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'Guys And Dolls'

February 28, 1986|CATHY DE MAYO

Deese guys in Buena Park Civic Theatre's revival of "Guys and Dolls" wouldn't fool nobody, no time, nowhere. Bookies and bums dey ain't. And despite their spirited efforts, this version of "Guys and Dolls" stubbornly remains rooted in Buena Park rather than in 1950s New York.

At heart (and it has plenty), "Guys and Dolls" is a slender tale of two small-time hoods, bolstered by a big-time score by Frank Loesser and plenty of Times Square atmosphere borrowed from Damon Runyon in the good-natured script by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. If bookies who break into ballet turns sound unlikely, meet Runyon's heroes: Nathan Detroit, whose affection for his dim-bulb fiancee of 14 years is exceeded only by his devotion to "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York"; and Sky Masterson, a smooth operator honed by life on the streets who finds himself falling for an upright, up-tight Save-a-Soul Mission lass.

Director Gary Gordon's version finds much of the heart and humor but doesn't offer enough atmosphere to transport the audience back in time. This Times Square is too bright, clean and uncluttered; the street types, con men, tourists and cops are strictly ersatz; the turns of the tongue that convert "persons" to "poysons" too often are inconsistent or non-existent.

But several of the performances capitalize on the spirit of the show, notably Cammy Greenfield's affectionate characterization of Adelaide, the perpetual bride-to-be. (Adriane Coros will play the role through the rest of the run.) Her evasive fiance, Nathan, is more likable schlemiel than street-wise hustler in Steven Toth's portrayal, but the two make appealing adversaries in the battle of the sexes. Kevin McCormack contributes welcome color to the proceedings as Nathan's sidekick, Benny Southstreet, in a neatly crafted, capably sung performance, and Anthony Farone filled in ably Friday night on very short notice as Benny's pal Nicely-Nicely.

George Champion and Julia Johnson manage to make Sky and his "mission doll," Sarah Brown, nicely human, but the sparks between them never quite ignite. Both make the most of their solo turns, though--Champion's "My Time of Day" is powerfully evocative, and Johnson's tipsy "If I Were a Bell" is a comic delight.

Happily, there is nothing sketchy about Richard Schraier's musical direction or the fine work of the 17-piece live orchestra, which offers a reminder of the endurance of Loesser's score. The accompaniment is crisp and effective--and loud, overwhelming the singers on a number of occasions.

"Guys and Dolls" will play through March 15 at Buena Park High School, Magnolia Street at Academy Way, Buena Park. For information, call (714) 821-1010.

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