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Review | Bet on these Guys and Dolls, ladies and gentlemen. They’re aces.

A person can develop a bad, bad crush on a show with just as many benefits as the roaring revival of “Guys and Dolls” at the Kennedy Center.

Place in the win column the priceless score of Frank Loesser and a large cast that is impressively attuned to a vintage New York of bunco artists, choir girls, soul savers and high rollers. You should add space in your highboy to accommodate all the top talent sniffing around the Eisenhower Theater, where director Marc Bruni’s excellent production only runs through Sunday.

I call on a higher authority to intervene and order a postponement of dismantling, and to detain the actors, led by Jessie Mueller, Phillipa Soo, James Monroe Iglehart, and Steven Pasquale, at the DC border. Only 10 gigs? For this magnitude of delight, let alone inspiration? May a lofty Eminence hear my plea and preserve this experience, or at least infuse the entire kit and caboodle – set pieces, props, costumes, orchestra, dancers, stars, da woiks – to another location and a future life. (Did I hear someone mention Times Square?)

Kennedy Center Ups Broadway Ante With Starry Sky ‘Guys and Dolls’

“Guys and Dolls” marks the return of the Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage series, begun in 2018 with “Chess” and curtailed by the pandemic following “Next to Normal” in early 2020. The musicals-in-concert series, curated by Jeffrey Finn, the Kennedy Center’s vice president and executive theater producer, has steadily raised its production values. Finn and company have rejected the illusion of some kind of upgraded workplace in favor of a modern, streamlined, fully realized evocation of text, music, lyrics, design and movement.

This “Guys and Dolls” represents a high point for the series. Allow me to count the ways, beginning with the outstanding performances of all four stars, eminently suited to their assignments and to reveal the brilliance of Loesser’s words and music, and the humor in the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. . (Yes, some may find in a 1950 musical an old-fashioned caricature of both male seduction and female adoration of the marriage altar. But this is, after all, a show based on tales of the city’s tasteful underworld by Damon Runyon, a New York journalist who died in 1946.)

Mueller is, in a word, divine as Miss Adelaide, the Hot Box Club headliner whose 14-year engagement to Iglehart’s Nathan has resulted in a chronic case of — achoo! – wedding bell blues. She’s smartly dressed by designer Mara Blumenfeld, whose Technicolor costumes offer consistent touches of panache throughout: vibrant check and pinstripe suits for the gamblers and flashy feather and fur showgirl outfits for the Hot Box Girls.

“Adelaide’s Lament” is effortlessly hilarious in Mueller’s episode, and she and Iglehart make “Sue Me” a sweet hymn to marriage forever on hold. Iglehart masters Nathan’s responsibilities as an amiable commitment-phobe and crap-game organizer, the latter celebrated in the ensemble “The Oldest Established,” another of the evening’s endless roll-outs of surefire numbers. There is not a clunker or even a so-so song in the beautiful unity of melody and poetry in Loesser’s score, arguably one of the best ever written for Broadway.

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“Guys and Dolls” unfolds around two romantic couples who carry equal weight in the story. One of the glories of Bruni’s production is that it maintains an ideal balance. That is of course a tribute to the artists themselves. Soo, lately an enchanting Cinderella in Broadway’s “Into the Woods,” brings an utterly charming combination of propriety and mischief to her Sarah, the “mission doll” of the Salvation Army, and her sparkling soprano works wonders for “If I Were.” a Bell” and her handy duet with Mueller, “Marry the Man Today.”

Pasquale, Soo’s real-life husband, exudes a natural meekness as Sky Masterson, the great gambler who coaxes Sarah into a bet and then, of course, falls for her. No feeling in a musical compares to the satisfaction of listening to a voice embrace the notes of a cherished song with velvety confidence. That’s a quality Pasquale demonstrates lavishly in ‘My Time of Day’ and the perennial crowd pleaser ‘Luck Be a Lady’.

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I could go on, and I will, because so much thought has gone into so many elements of the show. Set designer Paul Tate de Poo III has devised a sharp twist on the contemporary convention of the stage orchestra (here a 21-piece marvel of auditory enchantment, conducted by Kevin Stites), placing the musicians in tilted boxes that look like dice in the middle. roll. Or maybe, with its framing projections of New York City skylines, they’re meant to conjure up rooftop bands serenading the city.

Choreographer Denis Jones infuses dance sequences with panache, whether it’s through the rousing gymnastics for “Luck Be a Lady” or the feisty paso dobles of the Havana nightclub scene, where Sky has carried off an increasingly tipsy Sarah. (This potentially sensitive #MeToo scene is treated with comedic grace.)

You must also give a fedora tip to the gallery of gamblers on which Bruni has bet. Kevin Chamberlin is the Nicely-Nicely Johnson you would line up for your all-star team. His “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” is the full-length adrenaline rush a great Guys and Dolls needs. Matthew Saldivar and Akron Watson join Chamberlin for a boffo ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’, and Jimmy Smagula expertly mines Harry the Horse for fun. And Fred Applegate applies polished musicianship to the empathetic Arvide Abernathy of the Salvation Army.

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All this, and Rachel Dratch too. Did I fail to mention that little Dratch portrays the terrifyingly great Big Jule? Mustache penciled and husky intonations, the “Saturday Night Live” alum embodies the seriously ironic atmosphere strummed by this dream of a production. “Sublime” is a word that may be used too casually by critics. Well, on this occasion, I don’t hesitate to leave.

Boys and dolls, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, directed by Marc Bruni. Choreography, Denis Jones; music direction, Kevin Stites; sets and projections, Paul Tate de Poo III; costumes, Mara Blumenfeld; lighting, Cory Pattak; sound, Kai Harada and Haley Parcher. Starring Allison Blackwell, Deon Ridley, Eden Marryshow, Anthony Wayne, Jacqueline Antaramian. About 2 hours 45 minutes. Until October 16 at the Kennedy Center. kennedy-center.org.

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