The oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York floated into Carnegie Hall last night, with that staid historic venue hosting a one-night-only concert version of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls for its annual benefit.
A packed house combined high-rolling benefactors resplendently attired for gala banquets both before and after the show with everyday theatregoers eager to see Nathan Lane recreate the role that made him a Broadway star 20-odd years ago.
This wasn't the 1992 revival version, though; musical director Rob Fisher and stage director Jack O'Brien returned to the original 1950 script, which hasn't been used intact in any of the three Broadway revivals. (These included the 1976 all-black revival, under the supervision of original author Abe Burrows; the 1992 edition featuring Lane and Tony-winner Faith Prince, directed by Jerry Zaks; and the strangely-awkward 2009 edition which appeared briefly at the Nederlander.)
Lane plays the role as if he was born to it. (When searching for a stage name, young Joseph Lane selected Nathan in deference to Guys and Dolls.) If his line-readings and stage business are familiar — the Nathan Detroit character seems to have contributed to the actor's persona and many of his performances over the years — he was still delectable. He was joined by Megan Mullally as Miss Adelaide, the Hot Box dancer with the psychosomatic cold. Mullally, who first came to Broadway as the leading lady in the Matthew Broderick revival of Loesser's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, made a very funny Adelaide. The romantic couple of gambler Sky Masterson and Mission doll Sarah Brown was played by Patrick Wilson (Oklahoma!) and Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid), both of whom demonstrated chemistry — yeah, chemistry — in their duets "I'll Know" and "I've Never Been in Love Before."
As usual, the Runyonesque subsidiary characters provided much of the fun. Prime among them was John Treacy Egan (The Producers) as Nicely-Nicely Johnson — the guy who's got the horse right here — and Christopher Fitzgerald (Young Frankenstein) as his sidekick Benny Southstreet. Their rendition of the title song — heralded by Loesser's immortal words, "What's playing at the Roxy? I'll tell you what's playing at the Roxy" — was a knockout, and Egan rocked the house with "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat." Colman Domingo, who is up for London's Olivier Award next weekend for his performance in the smashingly good Young Vic production of The Scottsboro Boys, joined the pair in the "Fugue for Tinhorns" as Rusty Charlie. In non-singing roles, Lee Wilkof (She Loves Me) was a crusty delight as Harry the Horse, Steve Schirripa ("The Sopranos") was an amusingly menacing Big Jule and Judy Kaye (Nice Work If You Can Get It) was her typically professional self as General Cartwright.
The surprise of the evening came from Len Cariou, who created the leading roles in Sondheim's A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd. The veteran actor took "More I Cannot Wish You" — usually an incidental song hidden among Loesser's bold and blaring score — and turned it into the evening's biggest showstopper. As Arvide Abernathy, Cariou did similarly well with his lines, which powerfully delivered with a wide twinkle.
Conductor Fisher, who was the founding music director of Encores!, and whose credits include the long-running Chicago and the recent New York Philharmonic production of Carousel, led a Carnegie-sized orchestra of 45 in the original orchestrations by George Bassman and Ted Royal.
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