Guys & Dolls

Various Artists

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Guys & Dolls Review

by William Ruhlmann

The first Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, which opened on July 21, 1976, was an all-black version starring Robert Guillaume as Nathan Detroit. It was generally well received by critics and enjoyed a modest run, but at a time when cast albums were not selling well it did not attract the attention of record companies until Motown, a newcomer to the field, decided to take a chance and record it on November 8, 1976. It turned out that this was a production that worked better onstage than it did on record. James Randolph as Sky Masterson, Norma Donaldson as Adelaide, and Ernestine Jackson as Sarah Brown all exhibited good voices and performed well. (The role of Nathan Detroit doesn't actually have much singing to test Guillaume.) But the change in ethnicity necessitated occasional lyric alterations, which offended fans of songwriter Frank Loesser, and the updated arrangements of Danny Holgate and Horace Ott did not improve upon the originals, especially when they ventured into disco territory with "I've Never Been in Love Before," a style that sounded out of place at the time and ridiculous in later years. Given the cast, the gospel-styled "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" was a natural showstopper, and it was given its own extended coda onstage, but to fit that in on the LP, producer William Goldstein opted to edit the song itself, an unfortunate decision. One of Broadway's best-made scores, the music for Guys and Dolls simply does not reward tinkering, even if that tinkering made an individual production work better in the theater.

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