There were giants in those days, hardboiled hoods and gentlemen gangsters; gamblers, goons, and chiselers of the first rank; and confidence men who knew that if you were running a hustle near Times Square, it behooved you to do so in sharp menswear, with overenunciation and a little class. The neighborhood had standards. Or so, at least, said Damon Runyon, self-styled reporter, raconteur, and father confessor of midtown Manhattan's shady set in the early twentieth century.
Frank Loesser immortalized two of Runyon's tales in his classic Broadway fable, Guys and Dolls. The 1950 musical is the second theatrical time capsule Nancy Rich has directed in as many months at Cary Arts Center. (The first was the 1936 society drama The Women, codirected with Lyman Collins.) In this community theater production by the Cary Players, Rich elicits notable work in the central roles but shakier takes among supporting characters.
Elizabeth Quesada gave the strongest performance as a memorable Miss Adelaide, winsome nightclub performer and fourteen-year fiancée of Nathan Detroit (Ted Willis), who runs the "oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York." Under Darylene Hecht's musical direction, Quesada made poignant yet hilarious work of "Adelaide's Lament" and the technically challenging "Sue Me." Soprano Lauren Bamford soared as Sarah Brown, especially in her duets with the suave but too understated Stan Williams, who played ne'er-do-well gambler Sky Masterson. Rich's choreography finally caught fire in Williams's taut "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" and Tony Hefner's eleven-o'clock number, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
Williams believably churned the hot water his character was in while trying to stay a step ahead of the law, Miss Adelaide, and his fellow gamblers. But when Daryl Ray Carliles and David Adams's cameos as Benny Southstreet and Harry the Horse were more persuasive than a number of their gangster colleagues, the results left this tale of old-school gamblers a dicier proposition than it needed to be.