Several hours before curtain, Fort Tilden at Gateway National Recreation Area is bustling with beachgoers, bicyclists and ballplayers. An hour before show time, dozens of actors, musicians and staffers stream through the backstage doorways. Soon the packed house buzzes with excitement. Finally, Rockaway Theatre Company’s version of the beloved musical “Guys and Dolls” is off and running!
“I’ve got the horse right here; its name is Paul Revere…” At Saturday evening’s performance, gambler “Nicely, Nicely” checks the racing form with his cronies (Matthew Hunt, Dante Rei/Rob Colon). Played by popular performer Chazmond Peacock, he adds humor and vulnerability to the Nicely character. His singing testimony in Act II “Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat” is a musical comedy classic.
Director John Gilleece does double duty as harried Lt. Brannigan and the voice of tightfisted Joey the garage guy. Producer Susan Jasper, faced with an abundance of talent, offers more than one actor the same role on different evenings. What a wonderful predicament!
Kind hearted Sarah Brown (Maria Edwards/Renee Steadman) has the difficult task of withstanding Sky Masterson’s smooth talking advances. Kudos indeed to Sky Masterson (Michael Whelan/Daniel Velez), who sings “Luck Be a Lady” in the pivotal scene. A truly poignant performance is offered by RTC veteran Cliff Hesse as Brown’s wise adviser, Arvide Abernathy.
“A person could develop a cold!” is Adelaide’s musical lament as she realizes that a fourteen year wedding engagement could trigger “sy-co-sa-matick” symptoms! On Saturday, Nicole Mangano as Adelaide is terrific as Nathan Detroit’s adorably frustrated fiancée. (Alternate shows feature Caitlin Byrne). Of course, Nathan (John Panepinto on Saturday, Matthew Smilardi on Sunday) is just a really nice guy who happens to have some really shady friends in a really illegal profession. Luckily, it’s just a fable and a happy ending will be had by all!
Assorted gangsters, gamblers and dancing girls (too numerous to acknowledge by name) enhance this magical fairy tale of New York’s tough city streets turned wonderfully tame. Bravo!
Naturally, the extremely talented orchestra provides solid background, thanks to co-musical directors Heather Arzberger and Richard Louis-Pierre. Final bows to choreographer Nicola DePierro-Nellen, Gabrielle Mangano (assistant director), stage manager Nora Meyers and Costumier Extraordinaire Susan Corning.
For information on this and future productions surf to www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org, call (718) 374-6400 or like them on Facebook. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.