The Academy of Performing Arts production of the classic musical “Guys and Dolls” had its grand premiere this weekend, with performances of “Straight White Men” continuing at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and ” Steel Magnolias” from the Chatham Drama Guild.
Check back for additional reviews as more shows open midweek in Cape Cod theaters.
“Guys and Dolls”
By Sue Mellen
Written by: Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, based on the story and characters by Damon Runyon, presented by the Academy of Performing Arts.
What is it about : In its curriculum, the Academy calls this super classic a “Broadway musical fable,” and that pretty much sums it up. It’s a brightly colored and loving snapshot of a full set of New York Originals. There’s townsman Sky Masterson (Brendon Prentiss), Salvation Army crusader Sarah (Jennifer Almeida), veteran player Nathan Detroit (Ryan Van Buskirk) and sweet and patient Adelaide (Ann Vohs ). And who could forget Nicely Nicely Johnson (Terrence Brady) and tough Big Jule (Bragan Thomas). The story offers romance twice, with audiences hoping from the start that Sarah and Adelaide will get their men.
To see or not: Go for the pure joy of this song-and-dance classic, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.
Highlight of the show: At the heart of this show is Loesser’s unforgettable music and, under the direction of Sue Lindholm and musical direction by Chris Morris, the Academy cast does it justice. Duets like “I’ll Know” (Prentiss and Almeida) and “Sue Me” (Van Buskirk and Vohs) are sweet showcases of the chemistry in every lover’s set. And the ensemble’s song-and-dance numbers like “Take Back Your Mink,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” fill the theater with upbeat music and movement at heart of this show’s amazing longevity. (DJ Kostka is a choreographer.)
And while the show is filled with great vocalists, Vohs stands out with a powerful delivery that sends her voice to the rafters of the venerable Academy Playhouse in songs like “Adelaide’s Lament” and “Take Back Your Mink.”
Fun fact: The show first premiered on Broadway in 1950, based on Runyon’s 1930s short stories, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure.”
To note: The costumes, by director Lindholm, are simply priceless. The highlight has to be the choir of Hot Box Girls (Jess Phaneuf, Brynn Grambow, Jasmine Netherwood and Rebecca White), with hysterical getups for “Take Back Your Mink”.
One more thing : If you’re looking for something to do with the kids this summer, the theater will present “101 Dalmatians” at 10 a.m. on Saturdays from July 8 through August 14.
If you are going to: 2 p.m. on Sundays June 19 and 26; 7 p.m. June 24, 25 and 30 and July 1 and 2 at the Academy Playhouse, 120 Main Street, Orléans. Tickets: $30 adults, $20 under 16; 508-202-1952, www.academyplayhouse.org
“Straight White Men”
By Sue Mellen
Written by: Young Jean Lee, directed by Sasha Bratt, presented by the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater
What is it about : It’s Christmas and middle-class, presumably Midwestern Ed (Mark Hofmaier) has managed to convince his three adult sons to stay with him for the holidays. When they get together for the reunion, there are a lot of memories and fights; they are, after all, straight white men. But something else is happening. Matt (Mike Mihm), who has been living with Dad for some time, is depressed. Life hasn’t gone as planned for the high school valedictorian and Harvard graduate, and it’s especially tough given the obvious success of brothers Jake (Andy McCain) and Drew (Carl Howell). How are the guys going to handle this family crisis (if, indeed, it is a crisis)?
See or not? See him for the sometimes moving, sometimes humorous look at what some consider the “endangered species” of the straight white male.
Highlight of the show: Obviously, this show is about relationships. Throughout, the four tenets skillfully play off each other, skillfully expressing every emotion in the book. It would be all too easy for the actors to overplay their hands and get into melodrama, but they and director Bratt resist the temptation and instead take audiences on an often touching tour of that familiar and dangerous territory of a reunion. family (shades of the old Holly Hunter movie “Home for the Holidays”).
Fun fact: The 2018 production of this show at the Hayes Theater on Broadway made the writer the first Asian-American woman to produce a play on the Great White Way.
To note: Not so far behind the scenes, this show is about white male privilege and how it thrives in capitalist society. At first, the boys sing a number about the Ku Klux Klan to the tune of “Oklahoma,” then retrieve a Monopoly-style game called Privilege from the library and — just in case we’re in doubt about the underlying messaging – we learn that as a teenager, Matt had a school for young revolutionaries.
Learn more: WHAT ‘Straight White Men’ Isn’t What You Think It Is + 3 Other Theater Shows Worth Seeing
One more thing : Two people in charge (Eleanor Philips and Freddy Biddle) present the show and, at each stage opening, guide the characters on stage and position them as if they were props. It is a unique and particularly effective device.
If you are going to: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday through June 24 at the Wellfleet Actors Theater, 2357 State Highway (Route 6), Wellfleet; $40 orchestra, $36 senior orchestra, $15 student orchestra, with an additional $2.50 added to each ticket for fees; 508-349-9428, www.what.org.
By Carol Panasci
Written by: Robert Harling, presented by Chatham Drama Guild, directed by Anna Marie Johansen
What is it about : Set in the sisterly sanctuary of a beauty salon in a fictional small town in Louisiana, the play explores the strong bonds of female friendship. All five characters grapple with daily life, small and overwhelming problems – and hairstyles, of course. They handle it all with grace, strength and a healthy dose of humor.
To see or not: Although there is less substance in the 1987 play than in the 1989 film, the characters are realistically sketched with humor and pathos. Despite some glitchy production values (intermittent lighting and overly loud music drowning out dialogue), it’s an entertaining evening.
Highlight of the show: The cast of Chatham works well together under Nicholson’s direction: Nicole Gardner as Annelle, Sheila Jamieson as Clairee, Lee LaCroix as M’Lynn, Emily Nyerick as Shelby, Julia Randall as Ouiser, and Kristen Winn as Truvy.
Many local actors: They’re Back: The Cape Cod Pirate Festival Returns for Two Weekends of Fun in a Bigger Space
Fun fact: The work has gone through a number of iterations, including a 2012 TV movie featuring an all-African-American cast.
To note: Harling based her play on her family situation and real life circumstances. Originally conceived as a short story, it turned into a play.
One more thing : Actresses who have starred in this story in one form or another range from Julia Roberts to Marsha Mason to Queen Latifah.
If you are going to: 7:30 p.m. June 9, 11 and 23-25, 4 p.m. June 5 and 12 and 2 p.m. June 25 at Chatham Drama Guild, 134 Crowell Road; Cabaret seating $25, General seating $22, Students $12; 508-945-0510, www.chatdramaguild.org