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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Saturday night was date night. Wendy and I, as season ticket holders, visited the Palace Theater in downtown Lockport for their performance of “Guys and Dolls.” This is easily one of my favorite musicals. I was extremely excited when this selection was announced at the 2014 “Evening With the Stars.” I’ve seen it a couple times in other venues and I own the DVD of the movie starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. As a result, I tend to hold performances of this hit to higher standards than of other musicals I’ve seen.

Under direction of Christopher Parada, “Guys and Dolls” came to life on the historic stage. From the opening notes of the score to the last bows, this was a fantastic performance. The casting was incredible, with standout performances by everyone one involved.

I thought William Curr as Nicely Nicely Johnson channeled the spirit of the late, great Stubby Kaye throughout the performance. His facial expressions, gait and acting were in the same vein as the originator of the role. His running gag of having different food in each scene, including spilling popcorn during the bows fit right in with Nicely’s persona.

As always, Katie Merrill, playing Miss Adelaide, was a shining star on stage. Her beauty, range, and versatility gives her the ability to capture any role and deliver a performance that will stick in your mind long after the show is over. What more can I say about her singing voice? It is generally the highlight of the show.

The hapless Nathan Detroit was ably played by Jon May. Every time I see Jon perform, he seems to get better and better. In a musical that is just as much visible, physical comedy as it is the dialogue, Jon’s performance was riveting. When he fainted, it took a lot of trust that Jake Hayes would catch him as he fell. It was one of the most realistic looking faints I’ve ever seen on a local stage.

The cool and suave Sky Masterson was played by the cool and suave Kyle Beiter. Masterson is your quintessential gambler. He doesn’t let anyone or anything ruffle his feathers, or he tries to hide it very well. You wouldn’t want to play poker against him. Kyle was unflappable in his portrayal of Brando’s character, keeping that same poker face throughout the production.

No Palace Theater review would be complete without talking about Geoff Koplas. Playing the kindly old man, Arvide Abernathy, Geoff’s comedy was all visual. Generally struggling to bring up the rear of the mission parade, he provided the first laughs of the evening with barely a line of dialogue uttered.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the orchestra. Led by David Stacey, these musicians were flawless in their execution of those timeless favorites, “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Luck Be a Lady,” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.”

All together, the actors, actresses, and musicians put on a superb performance that ranked among some of the best musicals I’ve seen in the area, including Buffalo. The non-stop action, comedy, and music kept this audience member entranced, laughing, and tapping my feet. This show was very funny. With any good comedy, timing  is of the essence. This troupe had the timing down pat, and the physical comedy mastered, too. Wendy and I definitely enjoyed our evening at the Palace.

“Guys and Dolls” is a long show, but it is well worth taking the time to sit through the performance at the Palace Theater. Take a chance and test your luck on a great show this weekend. Shows are Thursday (July 16) through Saturday (July 18) at 7 p.m; then Sunday (July 19) at 3 p.m. Bring a friend. Or two or three. This upcoming weekend will close the show, and close out the Palace’s 90th anniversary season. Grab your seats while you still can!

+Craig Bacon reviews books and the theater for East Niagara Post. Follow him on Twitter @hippieboy73 or email him at

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