From the moment Chip Rohrbach saunters on to the
Pennsylvania Playhouse stage as Nicely Nicely Johnson and begins to sign
''Fugue for Tinhorns,'' it's clear that this ''Guys and Dolls'' is going
to be a sure bet.
Rohrbach, who plays Johnson with a roguish, boyish charm, and Jim Tully
as Ben Southstreet, Johnson's fellow small-time gambler, show a
delightful familiarity, playing up their characters' idiosyncrasies
through over-the-top gesturing, vaudevillesque facial expressions and
broad comic physical interaction. All these gimmicks work in spades. And
to add to the pot, Rohrbach's powerful voice.
And when it comes to winning hearts, director Beth Breiner has scored
again with her casting of Ted Rewak as Sky Masterson and Kate Varley as
Sarah Brown. They have beautiful voices that soar and thrill.
Like Rohrbach and Tully, they are stage pros, not afraid to embellish
their characters with wonderful details. Varley is particularly
enchanting in the Havana nightclub scene as she becomes more and more
inebriated. She stumbles and wobbles all over the stage as she falls
more and more in love with Rewak.
Lori Sivick not only captures the accent of Miss Adelaide, but also
grasps the character's challenged reality. Coquettish and naïve, Sivick
is alternately delightful and soulful as she sings ''Adelaide's
Lament,'' and she becomes an energized female warrior in ''Marry the Man
Today,'' her duet with Varley.
Mark Breiner's Nathan Detroit is a harried and inept schmiel who is
assertive with his runners, but an officious yes-man when challenged by
Gary Boyer's Harry the Horse, another unique Damon Runyon gambler, is as
much fun to watch as he battles with Nicely Nicely and Benny. He is the
subservient tool of the overpowering Big Jule, who is played by Gary
Martin as a man of few words, but obvious intentions.
Don Swan as Arvide, the Mission General, wields his oversized drum with
energy and determination. He reveals a softer, more tender side in his
solo, ''More I Can Not Wish You,'' as Sarah's surprisingly worldly
Among the many standout musical numbers are Rewak and Varley singing
''I'll Know,'' Varley's ''If I Were a Bell,'' Rewak's ''My Time of
Day,'' Rohrbach and Tully's ''Guys and Dolls,'' and the ensemble number,
''Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat.''
Breiner has a gift for good pacing and visually interesting staging.
Actors come and go, adding a freshness and joie de vivre. Scene changes
are done quickly, smoothly and inventively.
Rohrbach also served as set designer and his colorful painted backdrop
of the New York skyline seems to glow in full light and create romantic
settings when the lights are dimmed. His moveable flats keep the action
moving from Broadway to the Save a Soul Mission to a nightclub in Havana
and then to the finale in the gamblers' gambling den.
Myra Yellin Outwater is a freelance writer.