Composer-lyricist Frank Loesser has written more artistic shows (The Most Happy Fella) and more commercially successful shows (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), but his 1950 adaptation of Damon Runyon’s tales of the denizens of Times Square, Guys and Dolls, is widely considered to be a perfect musical.
“It is the perfect example of a book and a score that go together so beautifully, so perfectly. I don’t know that there are others that do it any better,” says Jeffrey Moss, who will be directing the show at Boca Raton’s Wick Theatre, beginning Thursday. “It’s got lovable characters, memorable songs, great jokes. Every time an audience comes in, they fall in love with it all over again.”
Speaking of love, the show features two couples who are — or soon fall — madly in love. There’s compulsive gambler Nathan Detroit (Wayne LeGette), who has been engaged for 14 years to sniffles-prone nightclub singer Adelaide (Lauren Weinberg). And there is high-roller Sky Masterson (Timothy John Smith), who becomes hopelessly smitten with uptight Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown (Aaron Bower).
“I’m coming in as a ‘Guys & Dolls’ newbie,” notes LeGette. “I’ve never done the show before. I’ve never seen the show.” Speaking prior to the start of rehearsals, the actor suspected he knew how director Moss would approach the material. “Knowing the way Jeff likes to work, he probably doesn’t see it as this big, splashy musical. Jeff wants to approach this like a play, as if we were doing Shakespeare or anything with a strong story.”
If LeGette is new to the show, Moss is an old hand at it, having helmed a national tour four years ago and directed several productions before that. “It’s a show I know and like. I think it’s in the league of ‘My Fair Lady’ and Rodgers and Hammerstein,” he says. “It’s about love. Everybody in this show wants to be a winner — either in a crap game or in love. If you don’t think that Mr. Loesser isn’t the ultimate romantic, just close your eyes and listen to the tunes and then listen to the words.”
Bower, who also has never performed in Guys and Dolls, was torn between auditioning for Sarah and Adelaide. “I think I’m a combination of the two of them, which is kind of funny,” she says. “I think if Adelaide and Sarah had a baby, it would be me.
“I’m not a super-religious person, but I think I can relate to (Sarah’s) frustration of trying to reach these sinners and not being able to. And I think she’s frustrated in love and Sky comes and sweeps her off her feet,” says Bower. “She resists it a little bit and then she gives in. I love that about her.”
As LeGette sees his character, “He’s got this girl that he’s absolutely crazy about and just can’t commit to. I’m going to try to approach it from a realistic standpoint — it’s a love story and it’s a guy who’s willing to do anything for his girl. Except marry her.”
The script by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling is full of humor, without sacrificing on the romance. And the score by Loesser is chock full of hit songs like “If I Were a Bell,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.” No wonder the show has become a classic.
“It’s such a lot of fun. It speaks to audiences in special and mysterious ways, just like Lady Luck,” enthuses Moss. “There’s something compelling about this show. You can just sit down and have a really good time. Boy, do we need that now.”
GUYS AND DOLLS, Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. March 9-April 9. $75-$80. 561-995-2333.