Frank Loesser is considered to be the most versatile of composers enshrined in the Pantheon of Broadway composer/lyricists.
Loesser wrote such hits for Broadway as “Most Happy Fella” (1956) and “Greenwillow” (1960). He also wrote music and lyrics for Hollywood movies “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952) “Guys and Dolls” (1955) starring Marlon Brando Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, and Vivian Blaine, based on Loesser’s earlier Broadway blockbuster production of the same name, which ran for four years.
He then followed that success with the 1967 blockbuster Broadway musical “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying”, starring Robert Morse who then went on to star in the movie also penned by Loesser. I hope the preamble on Frank Loesser will help younger audiences appreciate his talent that wowed audiences 70 plus years ago.
Librettist Mark Saltzman explores the colorful mob characters and gambling denizens of NYC after-hour bars and clubs covered by newspaperman Damon Runyon that became the basis for the Broadway production of “Guys and Dolls”. Saltzman sets his newly crafted musical in the same period as the progenitor “Guys and Dolls”; retaining the style and flavor of Runyon’s characters.
Three tales make up this triptych of sorts of characters who decide, for personal reasons, to give the “shady side of life” a try: “Tobias the Terrible”, “Breach of Promise” and “Baseball Hattie”, comprise the show currently running at NCRT.
It can be a daunting task to integrate three separate one-acts with characters types so well- known into a fresh, new musical comedy without having the audience, at least, recall the ancestry of this production. That memory challenge falls to director/choreographer Larry Sousa. I’m not quite sure he resolves that issue.
What I am definitely sure about, however, are the performances of a fabulous ensemble cast who portray 30 plus characters that shine in their individual and ensemble on-stage moments. In “Another Roll of the Dice”, now currently running at North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT) the ladies have the juicier and meatier rolls in which to strut their stuff.
Sarah Errington as Zelma the waitress, rules Mindy’s Deli, among other characters, setting the tone of what is to follow. She’s our interlocutor for the evening entertainment. Think back to our salad days. We‘ve all met or known waitresses of a certain age at our favorite deli who knew everything and everybody and called you “hon”. Her performances in all three one-acts are right on the nosey.
Allison Spratt Pearce as the beautiful and glamorous Georgia St. George, the local nightclub Diva; oozes sensuality from every pore and has dance moves in “Tobias the Terrible” with Elliot Lazar, that produces smiles of one’s own first nerdy attempts at being cool on a dance floor. She also scores in “Breach of Promise” and “Baseball Hattie”.
Elliot Lazar as “Tobias” The Terrible Tweeny and others, is a perfect comedy foil for the ladies as well as for the male denizens of Runyon country. It’s Lazar’s Unites States debut performance as an actor. Keep an eye on this talented performer from Canada, eh?
Lance Carter as Jabez, Thursday and others, delivers solid performances in each of his character portrayals. Jason Maddy also scores as Haystack, Duggler and others, both are local favorites in San Diego’s professional theatre scene. Darrick Penney as Ledge Dugan and others, is yet another professional New York-based actor who is being drawn to San Diego’s increasingly vibrant theatre scene, and NCRT in particular.
The technical support/credits creative team led by director Sousa is first-rate and one of the strengths of North Coast Repertory Theatre productions. It’s amazing what the technical creative team accomplishes production after production. I can’t wait for Season 38 to begin with “Amadeus” on September 4, 2019.
“Another Roll of the Dice” features another outstanding set design by Marty Burnett, and a lighting design by Matt Novotny, with Costumes designed by Elisa Benzoni. Hair and Wig designs by Peter Herman make those quick costumes changes convincingly believable as the actors move through their various characters.
The Sound design by Ryan Ford sounds a tad too loud; making the lyrics a bit difficult to hear (we’re pretty close to the stage as it is. Perhaps two notches down on the pot might solve the sound issue). Props design is by Phillip Korth and projections by Aaron Rumley and Larry Sousa, complete the creative team. Cindy Rumley stage manages the production.
The Musical Director is Cris O’Bryon. Arrangement, orchestrations, and additional music is by Jack Lipson. The off-stage musical accompaniment is performed by Jodie Hill on Bass, Jeff Dalrymple on Drums, Cris O’ Bryon on Keyboards and Gerard Nolan on Woodwinds.
“Another Roll of the Dice” performs at North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach, CA and runs through August 11, 2019.
Photos by Aaron Rumley