Okay, let’s get the negative comment out of the way first: the heading on this CD is a little misleading, this actually being a reissue of 1992 production. There, that’s that out of the way.
Guys and Dolls has been one of my favourite shows since seeing a student production at Goldsmiths’ College in 1988 or 1989. I have since seen both the film production (some good parts but an object lesson in how to take a fun, lively show and leech all the life out of it) and a disappointing amateur production (if you are going to use Wimbledon Theatre, use the whole stage, guys, not just the four foot square in the middle!).
If this recording is anything to go by I would love to have seen this production.
The overture is well played, if a little bit of a predictable ‘medley of songs’. Throughout the recording the orchestration is good, brash were it needs to be and lyrical in the gentler moments.
Several of the songs in the show live or die by the quality of the male chorus, but the one here is well up to the task, particularly strong in the first show-stopper ‘The Oldest Established.’
There are a few familiar names in the cast.Nathan Laneis a well-established musical comedy performer, perhaps most well-known these days for the stage version of The Producers. Sadly, the soundtrack album really does not give him a chance to shine – Nathan Detroit does not have a solo song in the show, only parts of ‘The Oldest Established’ and ‘Sue Me’. What you do hear of his performance is perfectly fine.
Faith Prince is a good Miss Adelaide, gutsy in the two big chorus numbers (‘A Bushel and a Peck’ and ‘Take Back Your Mink’) and vulnerable in ‘Adelaide’s Lament’.
The female lead, Sarah Brown is a less showy role than Miss Adelaide, but is perhaps the most interesting. After all, it is Sarah’s character that goes through the most changes. This means that often the role seems to go to someone whose singing abilities are less important than their acting. But here, Josie de Guzman really does her songs credit, singing with a crisp, clear soprano voice.
Walter Bobby gives an enjoyable performance as Nicely-Nicely Johnson (although the orchestration goes a bit strange at the end of ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’) and J. K. Simmons (best known to cinema audiences as J. Jonah Johnson, editor of The Daily Bugle in the Spiderman films) is perfectly acceptable in the more minor role of Benny Southstreet.
But it is Peter Gallagher as Sky Masterson who was the real revelation here. I know the actor best in his recent cinema roles, tending to play self-regarding Lotharios in films such as While You Were Sleeping and American Beauty. I had no idea he had a background in the musical theatre. But he is excellent as Sky, with a strong voice, good diction and a presence that carries even over the hi-fi speakers. At the risk of gushing, this is the best I have heard the role sung, and it puts the nightmare of Marlon Brando to rest at last.
Like many more recent recordings, this CD also includes some of the incidental music from the show, for example ‘The Crapshooters’ Dance’, which both earlier recordings I own have neglected.
All in all this is a fine recording which only makes me regret that I am 13 years to late to see the production!