Cassidy Theatre in Parma Heights, OH, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. THAT is a tremendous achievement. I think this community theatre is a gift to the Cleveland area and has produced some notable artists that have come up through its ranks, and even made it to Broadway and National Tours. Can I get a Corey Mach up in here! Currently President/Artistic Director Bob Stoesser and Vice-President Georgia Muttilo are at the helm, keeping the doors of this community theatre factory open in a competitive market and succeeding. And so, the classic “Guys and Dolls” kicks off the 40th season in high spirits.
Based on “The Idyll of Sarah Brown” and characters by Damon Runyon, this oddball romantic comedy, considered by many to be the perfect musical, introduces us to a cast of vivid characters, including Sarah Brown, the upright but uptight "mission doll," Sky Masterson, the slick, high-rolling gambler, Adelaide, the chronically ill nightclub performer and Nathan Detroit, her devoted fiancé, desperate as always to find a spot for his infamous floating crap game.
Thankfully, the production is directed and choreographed by Kristen Netzband. She has assembled a fine group of colorful actors. Her vision is right on with adept casting and Hot Box numbers that tantalize the audiences with legs for days, and crisp moves that evoke the era and bawdy humor. Netzband infuses a solid pace and never lets us lose focus. It reminds me of the heydays of Greenbriar Theatre and that is a very good thing.
Providing the soundtrack is Heidi Herczeg, who assembles a fine band, equipped with a solid horn section to alight the score in a brass blaze.
Set designer Kenneth Slaughter ( congrats papa-to-be!) does excellent nesting work by creating a colorful, dynamic set that really creates a period mood and energy. It is one of the best recent sets that I have seen at Cassidy.
Major kudos to costumer Sarah Claire, who knocked it out of the park by providing great period costumes, and sent the Hot Box numbers to another level by wrapping them in whimsical perfection.
Headlining the romantic leads are Trey Gilpin (Sky) and Kate Michalski (Sarah) Gilpin takes on Masterson with an intelligent edge, not overplaying the bravado, but utilizing an underplayed strength to thwart his opposition. Kindness kills just as effectively. "My Time of Day" was my personal favorite.
Kate Michalski brings a sweetness, sublimely mixed with resolve to her Sarah Brown. Her bright soprano voice is beautiful. Michalski conveys empathetic realness. "If I Were A Bell" is a challenge for any actress to ride the line of tipsyness and deliver honest humor. Her take on this favorite is one of the best I have ever seen, with great choices within the song, and throughout the show. Her "Dulce De Leche" tango was an audience favorite.
Nathan Detroit is one half of the dynamic duo that ignites for some of the show's
most funniest and most enjoyable moments and musical
numbers. The actor portraying Nathan needs bravado, musicality, and a strong
comedic sense. Luckily, Steve Brown has them all is spades. Brown inhabits his
character with deft timing, an engaging personality, and a voice that
harmonizes and holds its own. Brown's Detroit is a blast to watch, playing
every moment at full tilt.
Complimenting Brown on every front, is Kim Eskut as Miss Adelaide. Her
Adelaide is a long engaged, neurotic hot mess, which is a
beautiful thing. Eskut chews the scenery and puts her newly remodeled chassis
to good use, dancing, prancing and bringing nasal realness to her mission to
get hitched. Eskut delivers a strong comedic performance. She's a hoofer, too,
which just adds to the insane party.
Within the Salvation Army, Patrick Carroll's Arvide is a pleasant presence and delivers a heartfelt rendition of "More I Cannot Wish You”. Bernadette Hisey represents authority well as General Matilda B. Cartwright, adding her strong vocals to the fold. Lt. Brannigan is delightfully played by Jason Uzl, when he isn't literally firing up his trumpet in the band.
The gamblers were a bunch of delightful loaded dice. Leading the pack is Lou Petrucci, knocking Nicely-Nicely Johnson out of the casino. With a powerful presence, exquisite timing, and a voice that would make a cop siren jealous, he nails it. Petrucci brings the house down with "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat,”Nicely-Nicely done. Bravo!
A great surprise is Gavin Gangi as Benny Southstreet, creating a lovable devilish sidekick to the madness. With street charm for days, he deftly adds mayhem to the proceedings and kicks off the show well, when he helps nail the duet anthem "Guys and Dolls.” He's a gangsta you'd invite to dinner, but hide the real silver.
Jeremy Jenkins's Harry the Horse is so real, you think he just time travelled from the era, with great character choices and a face that
eliot Ness would love to hate. Jordan Fleming's split personality fits him well, as he covers the Master of Ceremonies, and then slips into a great Big Jule. Donning a firey red hat, he makes it work as someone whose gun makes up for inches. Whether you look down or up at a gun, it’s still a gun.
The rest of the ensemble works their magic. There is such great chemistry in this cast and I felt like I was watching a party as a special guest, and they were just showing off. It certainly seemed like a drama free cast kicking up one hell of a good time!
Congratulations Cassidy Theatre! 40 years is a tremendous achievement!
Go see this show and support this theatre. And, in fact, get out there and support all community theatres.
February 7 - February 23
$15-$20 Reserved Seating
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130