By Kimberly O’Brien- Young
Sometimes nostalgia can transport us back in time to memories that fill us with joy. Even to days gone by, when life was simpler, before technology and social media dominated the day. Remember that time? Our current generation has no idea of what I speak. I would venture to say that most reading these words, though, know exactly what I am referencing. (I don’t believe that many of the younger generation read the newspaper. They primarily get their news on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites.) This column isn’t intended for them… I am speaking to the generations that came before, the generation who would know what a “guy” and a “doll” is.
I attended the opening night of the current production on stage at the Laguna Beach High School Artists’ Theatre. It’s the best show ever performed by The Park Avenue Players. The show, directed by Mark Dressler, is the musical “Guys and Dolls.” The original Broadway production in 1950 was adapted from short stories by Damon Runyon written in the 1920s and ‘30s.
In the audience, I was transfixed and felt transported back in time. The costumes, the hairstyles, the sets, the rhythms, the songs, and the orchestra all spoke of a bygone area. It was moving, it was lush, and it was absolutely grand! I was toe-tapping, singing words to familiar songs. I was caught up in the love stories and so hoping that both Sky and Nathan Detroit would get the girls.
I was mesmerized by the Hot Box girls, who were like the movie starlets of the 1930s. The dance numbers were huge and many! The choreography by Erika Schindele was astounding. Even more amazing was the execution by the dancers. I had to keep reminding myself that these were high school students on stage, so professional was the production.
In tandem with the choreography was the music. Roxanna Ward was responsible for the musical direction. Man can these kids sing. I’m not talking about your everyday singing; I’m referencing the kind of singing that stops you dead in your tracks. Lucas Connor, who plays Sky Masterson, is like a young Bing Crosby. He belted out tunes with a velvety appeal that would make girl’s knees buckle! Marlena Becker, who plays Sarah Brown, is like a young Julie Andrews. On stage she was vulnerable, adorable, convincing and absolutely beautiful. Her finest moment comes in the last part of the Havana number when she sings “If I Were A Bell.” Not only does she sing, her incredible acting abilities shine through.
There is the comedic duo of Tony Davia and Tristan Cham, who play Nicely-Nicely and Benny. They sing, they dance, the act and they are endearing! The two are the sidekicks to the infamous Nathan Detroit played by Traer Freeman. When Traer crosses the stage he owns it. He is tall, confident and engaging as he moves through each scene. You can’t help but love him.
I have saved my personal favorite for last. This is the multi-talented Tatum Moore, who plays Adelaide. If I had to give out a Tony award for the evening, and I could only give out one, it would go to Tatum. Her characterization of Adelaide is breathtaking. It’s there in her walk, her movements, her voice, her New York accent! She becomes Adelaide so thoroughly that when her heart is breaking you want to run up and hug her!
Fourteen members of the cast are graduating seniors. Eight are in lead and supporting lead roles of “Guys and Dolls” and this will be their last musical on the Artists’ Theatre stage and the last chance to see them live before they are winning an Emmy or an Oscar someday. Trust me I wouldn’t steer you wrong.
The show’s final performances are this weekend with 7:30 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30.
Kimberly O’Brien- Young is mom to three boys and is a special ed aide in the Laguna Beach schools.