Discussing the matinee, Guys & Dolls, ought to take less space than yesterday's shows...simply because what we got was an absolutely classic old-school Broadway stage production. Simple set (with a few flashy touches), briskly enthusiastic choreography, uniformly confident acting, and musical numbers performed with energy and verve. A sufficiently trained ear might have caught one or two performers switching registers in order to hit one or two particular notes -- but that ear wasn't mine, and as far as I'm concerned, the door I walked through into the Angus Bowmer shell might as well have been a portal into the New York theater district. The show was just that good, and while I am usually stingy about handing out standing ovations (unlike most of Ashland's theater-goers these days), it took me less than three seconds to get up at the end of this performance.
I'm struck, though, by one observation. Where Head Over Heels (see yesterday's entry) got much of its energy from direct interaction with the audience, Guys & Dolls draws virtually all of its oomph from its own onstage presence. It's not that the audience isn't on board and enjoying the ride -- far from it -- but the energy that drives this production is essentially self-sustaining. And while this is far from a bad thing (overall, it's an indication that the show has been and will be consistently superb from its first to its final performance), it's a marked contrast to much of the Festival's other recent work.
Mind you, I'd still have liked to see Pericles Prince of Tyre, the rarely-produced Shakespeare play running opposite Guys & Dolls in the Festival's black box theatre that day. But the show I did see was a six-stars-out-of-five production of a first-rate musical classic, and that's an experience absolutely worth having.