GUYS AND DOLLS, Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre. Based on Damon Runyon's high-rolling lowlifes, Frank Loesser's 1950 "musical fable of Broadway" serves up an irresistible stew of gangsters and grifters, molls and missionaries. Amid the colorful clutter is a simple "chemistry lesson" in which a maverick gambler and Salvation Army crusader find common cause, thanks to Loesser's showstoppers.
Wisely, director Dominic Missimi doesn't try to outdo the riotous dialogue, with its rambunctious non sequiturs, pseudogenteel hoodlum lingo, and ash-can metaphors. Missimi found the right rough-and-ready character actors; the rest is as surefire as the score. Thomas M. Ryan's set, whose props assemble into a miniature cityscape, and Kenny Ingram's gung ho choreography set a playful tone for these Bowery caricatures.
Heading the rogues' gallery is Angela Iannone, one of the great Miss Adelaides. Iannone gets the outside right, especially the adenoidal warble that echoes Gracie Allen, Judy Holliday, Dumb Dora, and Betty Boop, but she also captures the poignancy of a Hot Box headliner who lusts for dull domesticity. Steve Pickering as her feckless 14-year fiance is a sad-sack bumbler more goofy than endearing. As the mismatched lovers, Steven Bogard and Kate Fry work hard to earn the harmony in their duet "I've Never Been in Love Before." (Happily, Marriott's miking sounds nearly natural.) And a special salute to Don Forston as Nicely-Nicely: he tears into "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" as if he were being paid by the convert. --Lawrence Bommer