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arts & leisure

Theatre Beat: “Guys and Dolls” and “The Fantasticks”

"Try to Remember" a longer running musical than The Fantasticks... The timeless classic will be staged by the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop for six performances - June 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 at the Rivoli Theatre in South Fallsburg. Pictured are Marissa Cohen, left, Christopher Sheridan and Allen Eckers)

By Jonathan Fox
June 21, 2012

Summertime provides entertainment opportunities throughout the Upper Delaware valley, and there are live stage shows popping up all over. Among them, both the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP) and the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop (SCDW) opened their doors for the season this past week.

The first show on the bill for the FBP is Frank Loesser’s “musical fable,” “Guys and Dolls.” Based on stories and characters written by Damon Runyon, with the show’s book written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, “Guys” takes a peek into the world of gamblers, sinners, showgirls and saviors in the late 1940s.

Having enjoyed a successful run on Broadway in its debut, the musical has been revived repeatedly and was translated to the silver screen in 1955, starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. Forestburgh’s production has plenty of guys and dolls, but if I had to place bets on which gender wins the opening gambit, my money is on the men. Dan Fenaughty (as Sky Masterson) gives a solid performance as the ne’er-do-well who falls for the most unlikely doll, Sarah Brown, (Elana Jillian Abt) and his strong voice and affable charm do justice to songs like “ I’ll Know” and “Luck be a Lady” as the story unfolds.

Robert Anthony Jones and Zachary Bencal (as Nathan Detroit and Nicely Nicely, respectively) were both outstanding and each had golden moments on stage. Jones’ comic timing is stellar, and his duet with fiancee Adelaide (“Sue Me”) stands out, assisted by LoriAnn Freda, who gives a competent, if unsurprising interpretation of Runyon’s colorful, wildly exaggerated singing doll.

Although both the male and female chorus were on point with the lively, hummable score, which includes memorable tunes “Havana,”“The Oldest Established” and the play’s title song, it’s still “all in” for the guys. Shining above them all is Bencal, whose hilarious performance as Nicely Nicely Johnson not only elevates this production each and every time he is on stage, but his rendition of the show stopping “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” is beyond fabulous. Bencal’s amazing vocal ability, paired with a flawless stage presence, (aided and abetted by nice staging from artistic supervisor Ron Nash and resident director Kevin Confoy) is single-handedly responsible for making this show work.

Fantasticks Review

I find that the review of the SCDW’s Fantasticks would have had more merit if the reviewer had stayed passed the first act. In my opinion, if you do not view the entire show, do not review it. If you had stayed, perhaps you might have seen character development or redeeming qualities in some performances. I do not believe a comprehensive review could have been done without seeing the entirety of the show.