Casting magic for “Guys and Dolls”

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An open letter to Des McAnuff, director of the upcoming Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls.”

Mr McAnuff,

You don’t know me, but having seen your productions of “The Who’s Tommy,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” and “Jersey Boys,” I have high hopes for your upcoming “Guys and Dolls” revival. I understand that you’ve already cast Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit (nice) and that other parts have yet to be announced.

Well, how about waiting a little longer?

At least wait until you come to Indy this weekend to see the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s concert production of “Guys and Dolls.” I checked for you: Orbitz will get you here from Ontario for less than $300.

Yes, I’m sure this concert production is already on your radar. Given the Broadway creds of most of the cast, you probably have someone here already checking it out. Still, I’m hoping you can see it for yourself.

Why? Well, I could go on about Ashley Brown, who you no doubt know from “Mary Poppins.” And Hugh Panaro, from the ill-fated “Lestat” vampire musical (not to be confused with your own ill-fated “Dracula” musical). They make a wonderful Sarah/Sky pair. I’ll be writing about them and other aspects of the production in my print column next week.

But the real reason to come here–and the reason I’m compelled to write this less than an hour after the show ended–is because of Hal Linden, who is playing Arvide Abernathy.

Yes, I know, Linden hasn’t helped launch a Broadway production since the 1973 revival of “The Pajama Game.” But at 77, the guy’s not only still got name recognition, committment (he was the only core cast member not carrying a script) and stage presence, he’s also got vocal chops. His tender, firm, marvelous “More I Cannot Wish You” brought deserved tears and helped define the show’s heart.

Plus–and here’s the big value added–Linden plays a mean clarinet–which was creatively worked into “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” and rocked the house. For a few minutes, the audience was convinced that it was one of the ISO’s expert players but, no, Linden made those wonderful sounds. And it catipulted an already high-flying number into the stratosphere.

Linden won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for 1970’s “The Rothschilds.” Time for him to win a Best Featured Actor in a Musical 39 years later. In your show.

More, I cannot wish you,

Lou Harry

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Indianapolis Business Journal

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