WHAT "Guys and Dolls"
WHERE The Argyle Theatre, 34 W. Main St, Babylon
INFO $74 ($79 Saturday nights), argyletheatre.com, 844-631-5483
BOTTOM LINE A respectable opening for Long Island's newest professional theater.
Opening a spanking new theater with a venerated old-time musical like "Guys and Dolls" seems to be a relatively safe roll of the dice.
The Frank Loesser classic tale of gamblers and their gals has been a staple of, well, just about everyone, from Broadway, to regional and community theaters, to high school drama departments. But the choice is not without risks — witness the widely lambasted 2009 Broadway revival.
The production that opened the new, beautifully refurbished Argyle Theatre in Babylon last week has significant charms, and offers promise for the future of live professional theater on Long Island. But as missionary doll Sarah Brown (Melissa Maricich) sings, it's all about chemistry, and that is lacking here. Her attraction to the shady Sky Masterson (Spencer Plachy) is hard to fathom, especially in their love songs. Though beautifully sung, they seem to look right through each other. Nathan Detroit (Todd Buonopane) and Miss Adelaide (Elizabeth Broadhurst) also seem distant, though that's more understandable since, as the story goes, they've been engaged 14 years. And they are adorable in the humorous "Sue Me."
My sense is that director Evan Pappas, who is also the Argyle's artistic director, had his hands full with the overwhelming technical aspects of a first production and let some fine points slide. And they have more work to do in this arena, especially with a sound system that was at times erratic.
Still, there is plenty to praise in this production. David Arsenault's set glows with thousands of lights and Debbi Hobson captures the era with her colorful costumes. And there are noteworthy moments: Sarah's grandfather Arvide Abernathy (Stephen Valenti) offers a deeply felt "More I Cannot Wish You" and Long Island-born Hofstra grad Robert Anthony Jones' Nicely-Nicely Johnson delivers in grand style the show's flashy 11 o'clock number, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat."
Bottom line, this was a respectable opening effort from a fledgling theater. There's room for growth, to be sure, but with an intriguing schedule down the road, there is much to look forward to.