"Guys and Dolls" On Stage at Roger Rocka’s

Review by Terrance McArthur

“Luck be a lady tonight…”

Go to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater to see Good Company Players’ staging of Guys and Dolls, playing through March 13, and you will feel very lucky, because it is a first-rate production of a classic musical.

Based on stories and characters created by Damon Runyon, with Frank Loesser’s songs supporting a script by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys and Dolls weaves the story of Nathan Detroit (Randy Kohlruss), floating craps game proprietor, and his 14-years-waiting fiancée Miss Adelaide (Mallory Parker) with the tale of the high-rolling gambler Sky Masterson (Terry Lewis) and his pursuit of the Rescue Mission doll Sarah Brown (Meg Clark).

Sky Masterson (Terry Lewis) and Sarah Brown (Meg Clark) in GCP's production of "Guys and Dolls"

The classic show opening number, “Runyonland,” has been changed from an introduction to a New York City of tourists, sidewalk grifters, and cops into a three-minute synopsis of the show, with comic-strip bubbles labeling characters and providing dialogue.

Kohlruss makes an impressive GCP debut as the gambling entrepreneur with commitment issues. He’s cuddly, with a pencil-thin moustache (the Boston Blackie kind), but comic timing like a Rolex. Parker matches well with Kohlruss, and her New York sound avoids the baby-doll squeak the role sometimes produces.

Nathan Detroit (Randy Kohlruss) and Miss Adelaide (Mallory Parker)

Clark’s clear tones produce a grown-up Snow White quality during “I’ll Know,” and she looks like she enjoys Sarah’s busting loose in the rum-fueled “If I Were a Bell,” as well as the determination of “Marry the Man Today” with Parker. Lewis is cool as the suave Sky, a smooth foil on “I’ll Know,” a soulful wistfulness on “My Time of Day,” and shaking dust out of the rafters with “Luck Be a Lady.”

One of the Mt. Rushmore parts of musical comedy is Nicely Nicely Johnson, one of Nathan’s minions, and Teddy Maldonado sets himself to have his likeness carved in stone with a boisterous “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” He clambers over benches, rises and falls, and sweeps the audience into a tent-revival fervor. On top of that, he gets to sing “Fugue for Tinhorns” and the title song.

James Knudsen works well with Maldonado on “Fugue” and “Guys and Dolls.” Gordon Moore is grumbly as the oft-thwarted Lt. Brannigan, the police detective who never seems to get his man. Terry Long, as Arvide, is protective of Sarah, and sings the oft -neglected “More I Cannot Wish You” with love and yearning.

Cast of GCP's production of "Guys and Dolls"

Xavier Gonzales fills out the “Fugue,” and has a clever voice-only bit as Joey Biltmore, owner of the Biltmore Garage, the preferred site for illegal gambling. He also understudies Sky Masterson, which brings up Covid-19. Outbreaks delayed the show’s opening night, but it is now going full-tilt. If any actors get sidelined by virus, there are understudies waiting to fill in, ones who are good enough to keep the performance quality high.

The Junior Company pre-show celebrates songs of the 1950s, and enlists some adults to work with the six young ladies. From well known (“Mickey Mouse Club March,” “That’ll Be the Day”) to the obscure (“Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor?”), they are all sung with gusto and great ability.

My personal YaGottaSeeThis Award goes to Roger Christensen, known for straitlaced and snooty parts, who is fall-down funny as Big Jule, a dangerous character from East Cicero, Illinois. You will love him.

The show plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.

Roll the dice and see a winner! 

Editor's Note: Randy Kohlruss is no longer playing the role of Nathan Detroit. 

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Terrance V. Mc Arthur is newly retired as a Librarian in Fresno County, California. He is also a storyteller, puppeteer, magician, and maker of pine needle baskets. On top of that he writes stories that range from rhymed children's tales to splatterpunk horror. He's an odd bird, but he's nice to have around.