Nathan Detroit (Kevin O’Brien) and Sky Masterson (Jayde Mitchell) were made for musical comedy. Detroit is a cash-strapped hustler whose traveling craps game is in danger of extinction. Masterson is a gambler who lives to make outrageously eccentric bets. What they have in common is zero interest in holding down a nine-to-five job.
What they don’t count on is changing each other’s lives.
“Guys and Dolls,” the hugely entertaining musical running through Aug. 24 in a Stray Dog Theatre production, is the essence of old-school cool. Its vision of a New York bursting with gamblers and gangsters in the aftermath of World War II is the kind of cherished myth that lends itself to showbiz exuberance.
The plot turns on a bet that Detroit makes with Masterson, involving straitlaced missionary Sarah Brown (Angela Bubash) and a trip to Havana. Detroit must also deal with the entreaties and insecurities of his longtime, marriage-minded girlfriend, Miss Adelaide (Sara Rae Womack). Complications — romantic and otherwise — ensue.
With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, “Guys and Dolls” boasts terrific performances by a charismatic cast and imaginative direction by Gary F. Bell. Based on stories by Damon Runyon, the show is drenched in nostalgia for a Big Apple that probably never quite existed but has lost none of its storied appeal.
The eminently hummable songs — among them “If I Were a Bell,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and, of course, “Luck Be a Lady” — represent Broadway at its best.
Recently, “Guys and Dolls” was staged at the Muny in a production that took splendid advantage of the venue’s state-of-the-art technology. Although Stray Dog’s approach to the show is nowhere near as flashy, it’s just as memorable and far more intimate. And it’s a good bet that theatergoers will walk away smiling.