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Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Guys and Dolls" Dazzles Audiences at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Ensemble - Photo Credit: Chris Bennion
Last night as I sat in the audience at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, the three-story-high words "Guys and Dolls" spelled out in lights, the bright colors, the cleverly designed sets, and the irresistible pulse of music and human movement all combined to emblazon this thought on my brain: "If I could live my life over, I would spend my youth training for musical theater so I could be up there on the stage right now, having all that fun." 

Who would not want to be part of that synchronized energy? As a jazz musician* I have some understanding of how those dancers feel. I love ensemble work, rhythm, and syncopation. But in this life at least, I will have to accept the fact that I'll never become a star in a musical, singing my heart out, arms and legs caught up in the beat. It may be too late for that, but I can still have the next best thing: a night at the 5th Avenue.

It's amazing how intimate an auditorium with 2,115 seats can feel. I've watched shows from various spots, always awed by the grandeur and majesty of this place, but this week my balcony seat offered a different sensation. I could better appreciate the entire space from that perspective and felt embraced by the warmth and texture of the sculpted ceiling and walls, features of the Chinese decor of this  historic theater that first opened in 1926. It is now considered a national treasure. Sitting just that much closer to the famous dome—exactly like the one in the throne room of the Imperial Palace in the Forbidden City in Beijing, only twice as large— I could look right into the dragon's eyes. I could see in more detail, the massive chandelier suspended from the grip of his teeth. A huge Wurlitzer pipe organ once accompanied Vaudeville shows in this theater, and I could imagine getting a glimpse of the pipes hidden behind the ornate screens on opposite walls.

Most importantly, I had a perfect view of the stage, even from the balcony. And there was plenty to see in that candy store of colorful costumes and crazy characters, whose exaggerated actions, accents, and antics imbued Frank Loesser's perennial  hit Guys and Dolls, with fresh energy.

Miss Adelaide (Billie Wildrick) and the Female Ensemble - Photo Credit: Chris Bennion
Director Peter Rothstein guides this production to its full potential and I especially appreciated the choreography of Seattle native, and Roosevelt High School graduate, Noah Racey, who returns to the Northwest after his brilliant success on Broadway. Other local talents enjoying well-deserved stardom include Clayton Corzatte, Daniel Levine, Brandon O'Neill, Billie Wildrick and Katherine Strohmaier. Also doing a great job were cast members David Alewine, Joshua Carter, Ross Cornell, Gabriel Corey, Sarah Davis, Bojohn Diciple, Christian Duhamel, Michael Ericson, Eric Esteb, Brittany Jamieson, Ann McCormick Allen, Trina Mills, Kasey Nusbickel, Katie Rooney, Jessica Skerritt, Mara Solar,and Dane Stokinger. I don't want to overlook the amazing pit orchestra made up of local musicians, who also deserved applause, as does every single person involved, including those behind the scenes.

Todd Buonopane, who played the part of Nicely Nicely-Johnson, is known to many because of his appearances on the hit TV comedy 30 Rock. His character stole the show many times. Watch him here singing "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."

With only a little over a week to go before the show closes, your chance of seeing this entertaining and memorable production could slip away if you don't reserve tickets now. It was well worth the trip from Tacoma and an evening parking rate of only $6 in the adjacent Hilton Hotel parking lot, didn't hurt a bit. Order your tickets online here, or call  (206) 625-1900. Don't miss it.


Copyright 2011 Candace J. Brown

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