Guys and Dolls crowds stage with colorful characters

By - Dec 17th, 2010 05:23 pm
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Parker Cristan and Sharon Rise in Off the Wall’s “Guys and Dolls.”

Dale Gutzman takes on big challenges in a tiny theater to entertain his audiences. Gutzman’s Off the Wall Theatre is now staging Guys and Dolls as a no-compromise Broadway musical despite the cramped venue.

This production is a faithful homage to Frank Loesser’s songs and Abe Burrows’ wonderful adaptation of Damon Runyon’s imaginative stories of New York life during prohibition. Runyon’s quirky stories bristle with brilliant songs and non-stop one-liners in the musical version.

The two Guys and Dolls love stories are far from traditional. Nathan Detroit (Karl Miller), host of the “oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York,” is never quite ready to finalize an engagement of 14 years to Miss Adaleide (Kristin Pagenkopf), headliner of the Hot Box girls. Sky Masterson (Parker Cristan) — a suave, big-time gambler who can have and discard any “doll” he wishes — takes a bet that he cannot romance Sergeant Sarah Brown (Sharon Rise), the devout, naive leader of the Save-a-Soul mission. Life is about to change for all the endearing characters in this Neverland New York.

Guys and Dolls supporting cast

Shooting craps – A day in the life of Runyon’s characters

Gutzman and company celebrate Runyonesque characters in over-the-top comic-book fashion. Supporting players lovingly portray a rogues’ gallery of gamblers and cops, burlesque dancers, a mission band and the local drunk. The cast dresses in a rainbow of primary colors with mugs to match.

Verve and enthusiasm charge the production numbers, danced nearly in the collective lap of the audience. How do you choreograph a musical number with 26 people in a space smaller than my living room? The rollicking Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat starts with standing up and sitting down, then exchanging seats, executing leaps and spins, dancing down the runway into the audience and disappearing at the back of the theater, then reappearing from the rear of the stage (thanks to a hallway next door.)

Nathan and Adelaide

Nathan Detroit (Karl Miller) and Miss Adelaide (Kristin Pagenkopf)

Pagenkopf, as Adaleide, sings with great comic flair, lamenting her “psychosomatic syndrome … just from waiting around for that plain little band of gold … a person can develop a cold.” She and the Hot Box girls draw in the audience with Take Back my Mink.

Karl Miller as Nathan Detroit earns our sympathy despite his faults, as he struggles to balance an edge-of-failure illegal enterprise and an impatient girlfriend expecting to reform him.

Cristan’s Sky Masterson is every bit the cool heroic figure, singing with conviction and style – particularly in Luck be a lady tonight.  Sharon Rise, as Sarah Brown – I’ll Know (when my love comes along) and I’ve Never Been in Love Before — can’t match Cristan vocally, and she seemed a little cold, at first. I missed some show of passion for her mission, which could be transferred into passion for Sky.

Gutzman directed. He’s also  a larger-than-life scene stealer as Big Jule, a visiting gambler from Chicago.

Matt Zembrowski, as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, an assistant to Nathan Detroit, plays an outstanding leading vocal role in the larger musical numbers. As musical director, he adds energy and casual flair from a spinet piano rolled around the stage. (Taped accompaniment crops up infrequently.) The piano provides live entertainment, occasionally well complemented by a flute, saxophone or violin.

Would this performance work as well in a conventional theater? Maybe not, but it is where it is. The intimate room, the crowded, casual, hand-crafted feel, and the infectious, close-up enthusiasm of the amateur players make this show a delight to experience.

 

Seating is nearly as limited as the stage.  Tickets are going fast; Dec. 18 and 19 are sold out. Guys and Dolls runs through Dec. 30. Tickets are $28.50 and $24.50, $35 on New Year’s Eve. Click here or call 414-327-3552 to order. Sunday shows begin at 4:30 p.m., all others at 7:30 p.m., except for the 8 p.m. start on New Year’s Eve.

0 thoughts on “Guys and Dolls crowds stage with colorful characters”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The comment about the close-up enthusiam of the amateur players is very interesting. This theater company is considered professional and yet the cast is not paid. That would be like local theaters such as Sunset, and Waukesha Civic. But the cost of the shows at Off The Wall are professional prices. I guess as long as the audience enjoys the show, a professional cast is not needed. I know some shows that come into the Milwaukee Theater are non-equity touring shows, and others are union equity shows. Yet, the non-union shows are paid actors. At least a box for donations to the cast could be put in the lobby at Off The Wall. This talented fine cast deserves some gas money.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Close-up enthusiam of amateur players. Is Off The Wall a professional theater or not? Do cast members get a salary for professional work? The cast deserves at least some gas money. Maybe a donation box in the local, which can be divided among the talented cast members.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My reference to “amateur players” was to the large supporting cast. I assume they all have day jobs. Do cast members get a salary? I don’t have the answer to that. Off the Wall Theatre clearly does a lot with few resources. Their ticket prices are commensurate with the substantial entertainment they provide.
    “Amateur” is not meant as a slight when the formula works.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Having seen many shows at the theater, yes many do have day jobs. Your comment was perfect in the review. The person writing in also was being supportive. With all of that hard work, a donation plate for the actors would be nice to see in the lobby. Touring companies, and equity companies, have much larger budgets so naturally the actor can make a living. But, it would just be nice to see the talented and hardworking cast make some gas money during the Holidays. Most do not care; but some young people are still in school, etc. Most audience members would love to leave a donation, as they do at the Boulevard.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m happy that this show was entertaining and enjoyed by so many people. The laughter and applause is a huge part of why we all give our free time to theater (yes, we all have day jobs). I love such kind audience members who would gladly donate to the actors! Thank you all for thinking of our gas tanks, but most of all for enjoying the show we worked so hard to put on for you!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is from the Director of Off the Wall, Dale Gutzman
    ADD UP THE COSTS OF A SHOW AT OFF THE WALL.
    ROYALTY: $2000.00 PLUS
    SET CONSTRUCTION $300.00 PLUS
    TECHNICAL DESIGNER $300 PLUS
    MUSICAL DIRECTOR $1,800
    PROPS AND COSTUMES $200.00
    THEATRE RENT $1,400 A MONTH
    ELECTRICITY $160 A MONTH

    I DO NOT GET PAID FOR DIRECTING. I HAVE NOT MADE MONEY ON ANY SHOW IN 11 YEARS AT OFF THE WALL. I AM A PROFESSIONAL. I HAVE GOTTEN PAID BIG TIME OTHER PLACES. I DO IT AT OFF THE WALL FOR LOVE. ALL OF OUR ACTORS DO IT FOR LOVE! STUDENTS STARTING OUT DO NOT DESERVE TO GET PAID. THEY LIKE ALL OF US MUST SACRIFICE FOR THE ARTS TO BEGIN WITH. I AM FORTUNATE TO GET THE SAME FINE PROFESSIONAL ACTORS WHO WORK AT THE SKYLIGHT, THE REP, THE CHAMBER ETC. BUT BECAUSE THEY KNOW WE ARE SURVIVING ONLY ON LOVE AND MINIMAL SUPPORT, THEY WORK FOR ME FOR FREE. IF YOU ADD UP THE COSTS AND OUR TICKET PRICES AND THE NUMBER OF SEATS, YOU CAN SEE THAT WE MAKE NO PROFIT ON ANY SHOWS WE DO. SOME THEATRES PRETEND TO BE PROFESSIONAL AND INSIST THEY PAY ACTORS. THEY SOON GO BROKE. OUR AUDIENCES GIVE US SUCH WONDERFUL SUPPORT, WE CANNOT ASK MORE OF THEM IN THE WAY OF PASSING THE HAT. IF A YOUNG ACTOR CANNOT WORK FOR FREE TO LEARN THE TRADE AND TO GROW, THEN HE SIMPLY SHOULD NOT DO IT. IT’S HIS CHOICE. WE ARE NEVER SHORT OF FINE TALENT WHO WANT THE “OFF THE WALL” EXPERIENCE. I AM SHOCKED AND OFFENDED THAT YOUNG ACTORS WHO HAVE NOT EVEN LEARNED THEIR TRADE YET, WANT MONEY IMMEDIATELY. I KNOW GREAT ACTORS WHO WORKED FOR 20 YEARS FOR NO MONEY BEFORE THEY EVER MADE A LIVING OR GOT PAID. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TALENT. PROFESSIONAL IS A MIND SET AND A SKILL SET…IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MONEY! DALE GUTZMAN

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Dale,
    Thanks very much for sharing behind-the-scenes info on your production. Illuminating. However, no need to shout in all caps. From what I can see, Mike Barndt and all the commenters wish you and yours well. They were just a little curious about the nature of the enterprise. — Tom

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Tom, The question was whether this semi-professional company had paid actors and staff? I think other area companies that do offer a donation plate for actors; at least give the audience a chance to say “Thank You” to actors,staff whether they are paid or not.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Having seen the show a couple times, I must add my 2 cents… Yell all you want Dale, I first saw the show on the opening Friday, I found it tight with a few minor rough edges and thought this review somewhat inaccurate and “amateurish” (what reviewer reveals secrets to the public). While I like to give any show some liberties and actually enjoy some twists, last night show was every bit amateurish. Many missed lines and ad libs left me lost or having me fill in the line. The Chemistry was lost. Is this what happens when a show sells out? I’m no critic, but I’ll Know when too many pranksters are in the cast and the start of said song is lost. Thank goodness Nathan and Adaleide were on last night. Performances like last night will entertain but give me pause. P.S. Typical lawyer speak, when a retainer must be met in order for them to render services/money. I do wish you the money to continue with your ventures.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Gas prices are now over $3.00 a gallon. They predit it will soon go up to $3.50. The added costs could make it difficult for many local actors to travel to rehearsals and performances. Some locations even require paid parking. The donation plate is a wonderful idea! Actor

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