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CVLT reunion earns its ovation
THEATER, BY BOB ABELMAN
CVLT reunion earns its ovation
Is there any better escape from the heated battles between good and evil on Wall Street, in Washington and in the Middle East than an evening with the sinners and saints in the Frank Loesser musical "Guys and Dolls"?
Not according to the throngs who showed up for the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre's production of "Guys and Dolls: In Concert." This three-performance-only event from Oct. 3 to 5 featured a stripped-down, abbreviated version of the 1951 Tony Award-winning musical and was a reunion of cast members from CVLT's 1971 production of the show.
"The 1971 production opened amidst 12 inches of snow and howling winds," recalled Don Edelman, of Chagrin Falls, who directed both the original and recent productions. "Despite the foul weather, there wasn't an empty seat throughout the entire run of the show. Each performance was met with a standing ovation."
The recent Saturday night performance at the CVLT was sold out, and the Friday evening and Sunday matinee performances were nearly filled to capacity. "It was a remarkable weekend," beamed Tom Neff, president of the theater board. "So many of the CVLT faithful showed up. They were very well entertained." He added that "each performance was met with a standing ovation."
"Guys and Dolls" is a wonderfully sentimental romantic musical comedy filled with charming, well-crafted and memorable songs. After its original Broadway run of over 1,200 performances, "Guys and Dolls" has been revived in 1976 and 1992 and is slated for a brand new New York production in 2009.
The story centers around Sara Brown, a saintly Salvation Army worker, and the notorious gambler Sky Masterson, who falls in love with her. Sky's friend, a two-bit gambler named Nathan Detroit, runs the oldest established floating craps game in the city. Sara is determined to save the souls of Nathan's clientele, and Sky is intent on introducing Sara to the seductive pleasures of big-city living.
The latest CVLT production was a concert version of this classic show. This meant less dialogue, less choreography and a stripped-down set design that made way for a 25-piece concert orchestra on stage, under the supervision of Stephen Eva. The focus was on the music. This historic run marked the first time that the concert version of "Guys and Dolls" was presented at a theater in Northeast Ohio.
Returning to Cleveland to reprise her role from the original CVLT production was Joanie Winter, from Chicago, as the female lead, Sarah Brown. Frank Zeleznik drove in from Orlando to return as the male lead, Sky Masterson.
Local area performers Frank Mularo and Sy Levine joined the cast of 19 players to repeat their original roles as gangsters Nathan Detroit and Benny Southstreet, respectively. Carol Ernst, from Tallmadge, returned to play the comic lead, Adelaide. This reprisal marked Ms. Ernst's first stage performance in four decades. This production boasted other local talent, including Rollin DeVere, Kris Tesar and Don Bernardo, from Chagrin Falls, and Sharon Lloyd, from Bainbridge.
Mr. Edelman was largely responsible for pulling off this production. "The theater board was discussing the possibility of doing a concert version of a popular musical. We had always talked about doing a reunion of CVLT actors of some kind. These two ideas came together in 'Guys and Dolls,'" he noted.
According to Mr. Neff, "We are looking at another concert version of a musical with Steve Eva's orchestra, probably at the same time next year. Next year is our 80th anniversary of operation, and we want to do something truly special."
If this past production of "Guys and Dolls" is any indication, the local theater-going crowd is in for another pleasant reprieve from life's harsh realities.
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