By Judith Robinson
Blair The guy to talk about in the Shaw Festival’s production of Guys and Dolls is Kyle Blair. Fresh from playing the leading lady, Sarah Brown, at the Mady Theatre in Barrie last fall; this young actor knows the production well—you could say inside out. Now he gets a chance to play the leading man—gambler Sky Masterson who lights up a production that could hardly be called dull.
♪ What’s in the Daily News; I’ll tell you what’s in the Daily News ♪. The tinhorns check out the ‘Morning Line’. Photo by David Cooper
The whole musical is high energy, full speed forward, frenetic and intense. But Blair stands out, and even rivals Marlon Brando’s 1955 screen portrayal, with his whimsical sex appeal and luring combination of bad boy and innocent. This is a man most women could fall for—John Boy Walton with a touch of Robert Redford in’ The Sting’.
Although the sexism is overwhelming—this is a world where woman are clearly second class—the charming romance between Blair and Elodie Gillett, who plays Salvation Army Officer Sarah Brown, relieves some of the pressure. Especially poignant was the scene in which Gillett finally lets her hair down in Havana and the two fall in love. Choreographer Parker Esse creates a mating dance with a red hot tango that won’t let go. It’s an entirely believable coupling in a totally unbelievable world—a seduction that doesn’t quite happen—but a fairy tale romance that does. Peter Hartwell’s set, particularly in this scene, is larger than life, blazing, and spacious. You can smell the cigars on the seaside breeze.
Frank Loesser’s music never fails to please. Musical director Paul Sportelli outdoes himself with his versatile orchestra. All the musicians and the singers hit the right notes and the audience rocks with rhythm. Director Tadeusz Bradecki creates an almost West Side Story arrangement of opposing gangs facing off in the streets—the nasty gamblers against the feisty Salvation Army Officers—a silent standoff which finally reaches a crescendo in a powerful testimony scene at the chapel where they all dance together in ritualistic frenzy.
Bradecki stressed the humour in the one liners- milking each moment with sentimental wit. Jenny L. Wright had the audience laughing and humming during Adelaide’s lament, that a rejected spinster “can develop a cold.” Aadin Church was hysterical as Big Jule. He was the only actor who threatened to steal the stage from Blair when he sashayed across the floor in his white suit like a big time syndicate boss. Sexism aside—this is a good show. Blair is an actor worth watching and Sportelli scores.
Guys and Dolls is on at the Festival Theatre until Nov. 3rd.