August 18 – 28
Studio Tenn presents:
Guys and Dolls (Ages 12 and older)
The Franklin Theatre
419 Main St., Franklin
Show times: Thu – Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 and 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $45 – $55
A true piece of theatrical heaven descended upon Middle Tennessee last night with Studio Tenn’s second season opener, Guys and Dolls, at the company’s new resident locale, the amazing, historic Franklin Theatre.
Before dipping into my review of the show, I can’t help but take the appropriate pause to praise the powers-that-be at the newly renovated and re-opened 74-year-old Franklin Theatre for their wise choice to adopt Studio Tenn as its resident theater company … in fact, Studio Tenn’s production of Guys and Dolls is the inaugural live theater show to grace the Franklin Theatre’s stage. And it makes absolute sense, considering Studio Tenn’s mission is to present classic theater works to the community. What a perfect venue for Studio Tenn! The Franklin Theatre IS rich in classic history, and going there to see a show IS a classic experience. It’s great fun to walk down the historic streets of downtown Franklin and be blessed by the lights under the theater’s awesome grand marquee to pick up tickets at the Box Office window. There’s just something about that, well it just makes the whole thing extra special in a way. It makes you feel that you’re really somewhere special … and you ARE!
Now, onto the show! Guys and Dolls is no doubt an incredible undertaking for any theater company to embrace, and Studio Tenn succeeds in accomplishing the task and takes it several steps further by presenting such a fun, mind-blowing production that no one else could possibly touch in this town.
Artistic Director Matt Logan’s talent is undeniable, not only in how he sculpts his talented cast, but in his set and costume design as well. His deft knack as a visual artist serves the company well when it comes to his smart set design. The Franklin Theatre’s stage is not big, but Logan skillfully creates the perfect set within those size constrictions — a couple of illuminated archways on both sides of the stage, a stair-stepped riser in back and the brilliant use of visual projections on the back wall that bring life to the various environs of the show, from the Mission to Times Square to the Sewer where Nathan Detroit‘s impending crap game finally occurs.
Keeping with Studio Tenn’s drive to incorporate real Broadway-blessed actors alongside our local, professional stage talent, the company hit the mark by bringing in both Jared Bradshaw (Nathan Detroit) and John Hickman (Sky Masterson) to this production. Both of these dapper gents glow brightly on stage on all counts.
The show incorporates a lot of hometown favorites in lead, supporting and ensemble roles as well. Hats off to Laura Matula for her superb performance as Miss Adelaide. That’s a difficult role to pull off and make believable, but Matula owns it, and in fact, she is the real star of the show. Her comedic timing is impeccable. She is a tremendous actress who knows how to embrace the character she’s portraying and succinctly draw the audience into feeling strong emotion on her character‘s behalf.
Although Carrie Tillis (Sarah Brown) sometimes comes across a little stiff and rigid — as if she’s holding back a bit — in her line delivery and blocking, she possesses a gorgeous singing voice, evident in one of the show’s many unforgettable numbers, “I’ll Know.”
One of the things I love most about really great shows is when a supporting character rises to the surface and blows the house down. Such is the case with Patrick Waller in his role as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. He is magnificent from start to finish, and bully for him for rousing the audience appropriately in his soul-stirring delivery of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” Waller no doubt delivers the production’s true show-stopping number. If it doesn’t tingle your spine some, well, there must be something wrong with you!
The other amazing thing about Studio Tenn’s production of this show is its approach to the musical numbers. Eight members from our own Nashville Jazz Orchestra provide the accompaniment, and it comes with new arrangements and orchestration, lending a real contemporary element to a classic show that debuted on Broadway in 1950. So clever and yet another feather in Studio Tenn’s cap for bringing something so vibrantly fresh to its audience.
Finally, I can’t say enough how absolutely fabulous Micah Shepard’s choreography is in this production. He serves dual roles; he’s also in the cast as one of the gamblers. His role as choreographer, though, is his biggest contribution. The dancing is flawless, and Shepard’s work here not only pushes the envelope, but it turns the proverbial screw at the same time. It doesn’t go for the obvious expectation. It excels way beyond that. Shepard gets the gold star in my book for designing the most beautiful and succinct choreography that I’ve ever seen in a production of Guys and Dolls.
Thank you, Studio Tenn, for becoming THE theatrical force to be reckoned with in Nashville.