With its concert version of Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls" Saturday, J. Ernest Green and the Annapolis Chorale moved into a new musical arena without leaving Maryland Hall.
The singers have gone this season from Mozart to Motown, from Handel to Mascagni and now to Broadway, without sets. With the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, the chorale and six soloists, the stage was so full that sets would have gotten in the way of the music.
Green and the chorale used the minimal staging effectively, so the performance was never static. Sarah Brown and the missionaries, for example, entered from the rear of the theater and marched to the stage where they established the Save-A-Soul Mission simply by singing "Follow the Fold."
Green acted as narrator, filling in the gaps and establishing locales inside the mission, on the streets of New York and Havana, at the Hot Box Nightclub or a New York crap game site. This simple device and a few lines of dialogue moved the plot along remarkably well.
Doing the most to move the action along was Robin Lounsbury, a classically trained coloratura, as Adelaide, the woman who has been engaged to Nathan Detroit for 14 years, but can't get him to the altar. Lounsbury seemed like a whole line of chorines as she danced across the stage by herself.
Tom Magette was terrific as Detroit, the gambler who strings Adelaide along, particularly in his "Sue Me" duet with his intended.
Bass-baritone Stephen Markuson was an appealing Sky Masterson, Detroit's gambling buddy who woos mission "doll" Sarah Brown. Markuson has the charm and the mellow, warm voice of a matinee idol, beautifully delivering "I'll Know" and "I've Never Been in Love Before."
Amy Cofield brought her big soprano voice to the role of Sarah Brown, the missionary who lets her hair down with Masterson. She was delightful in duets with Markuson and in "If I Were a Bell."
The other soloists contributed uniquely -- Jim Knost as Benny Southstreet and Russ Rather as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, two horse players, delivered a great rendition of "Fugue for Tinhorns."
The chorale will sing J.S. Bach's "St. John Passion" on March 20, and Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" on May 1.
Pub Date: 2/18/99