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'Guys and Dolls' re­view: Re­spect­a­ble open­ing for LI's new­est pro­fes­sion­al theater

Islip-raised Robert Anthony Jones plays Nicely-Nicely Johnson in

Islip-raised Robert Anthony Jones plays Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the Argyle Theatre's production of "Guys and Dolls." Credit: Laura Marie Duncan Photography

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.

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