The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. Click here for links to reviews and the full Western Pennsylvania schedule of spring high school musicals.
Unlike operating a floating crap game in the early 20th century, Pine-Richland’s decision to perform “Guys and Dolls” was far from risky. As this is one of the most frequently produced musical comedies to ever grace the stage, you would be hard pressed to find someone in the packed auditorium that who was not at least passingly familiar with the American musical classic depicting the perennial struggle between sin and virtue. It’s unsurprising then that Pine-Richland’s adaptation delivers few revolutionary innovations.
However this hardly means the show fell flat, instead delivering an incredibly charming execution that came across as spirited and dynamic. The costumes were bright, the sets were dynamic and the performances were appealing to say the least.
The story, as previously mentioned, is familiar. Nathan Detroit (Seamus Daniello) has run out of locations for his figuratively and at one point literally underground floating crap game. Desperate for money to bribe a warehouse owner to permit the gambling, Detroit wagers gambler Sky Masterson (Tyler Hepler) that the latter cannot swindle the pious Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown (Meghan Wilson) into a romantic getaway with him to Havana. In the meantime, Nathan’s longtime fiancée and lovable cabaret performer, Adelaide (Amarianna Busa), is desperate for him to legitimize himself and tie the knot with her.
The performers truly deliver on their roles, providing incredibly fun performances that showcase acting talent indicative of a true passion for their work.
Hepler came across as suave and cool, having clearly done his research on the role famously attributed to Marlon Brando. Daniello contributed authentic acting prowess that shines throughout the show. It was the lead actresses, however, who truly defined the vocal segments, with Wilson consistently showing off her vocal range in her songs and Busa providing lively vaudeville-esque acts in a hilarious high-pitched New York accent.
Among the best performances was that of Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Declan Allwein), who consistently had the audience roaring with laughter and at times stole the show, as during his spectacular rendition of “Sit Down¨ You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” which further exemplified the impressively large amount of male talent compared to many high school musicals.
Allwein epitomized what Pine-Richland did best, which was casting. Nearly every actor or actress not only seemed like they were born to play their role but that they were truly enjoying its execution. In high-school performances, such genuine passion for one’s work is absolutely contagious and truly felt by the audience.
Despite the frequency of predictable or familiar punchlines, the performers’ jokes never felt stale, showing off comedic timing that kept the audience in stitches. The ability to effectively use one’s tone and wit to convey humor regardless of the unsurprising nature of the age-old jokes is a critical virtue in classic musical comedies like “Guys and Dolls” and Pine-Richland has it in spades.
The atmosphere of the auditorium was lighthearted and fun with the lobby decorated like a New York City skyline outfitted with crap dice and various other prohibition-era features. Size-wise, Mr. Brian Scott’s orchestra was nothing to gawk at, with a moderate number of musicians. That being said, the sound produced by the instrumentalists could easily pass as coming from twice their true number, and it was their performance that ultimately pulled the show together. Their faithful adaptations of Frank Loesser’s classic showtunes were nothing short of earworms, with the songs sticking in my head well past the curtain’s close.
The pièce de résistance of Pine-Richland’s production can be summed up by one dominant thought of mine upon leaving the buzzing post-show auditorium: “that was a classic.” The performances were authentic recreations of their big-screen counterparts. While this particular production may not have been full of many surprises, this was ultimately its greatest strength, providing fans of the show with a pleasant surprise at the adherence to its source material.