Theater Review: ANOTHER ROLL OF THE DICE (North Coast Rep in San Diego)

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by Tony Frankel on July 24, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Well, here’s a jukebox musical just bursting at the seams with promise. And North Coast Rep’s production of Another Roll of the Dice is definitely kinda cute, a far cry from the overblown, disappointing jukeboxers we’re forced to endure. It may get a life at regional theaters with subscription audiences who thrive on memories as much as Medicare, but it misses with much-needed character-driven songs and a conjoined storyline. It also lacks sophistication — but, hey, who’s gonna argue with simply “cute” these days?

The conceit is clever. Take songs from the Frank Loesser catalog that have never appeared in a musical and create a new story around them with the same kind of Damon Runyon characters that inspired Loesser’s hit musical of 1950, Guys & Dolls. Bookwriter Mark Saltzman got his hands on some stuff from Frank Loesser’s estate, but unlike the majority of Loesser’s oeuvre, many of these tunes had someone else writing the melody. Saltzman took the terrific songs and plopped them into three Runyon stories: “Tobias the Terrible,” “Breach of Promise” and “Baseball Hattie.” The fourth tale, if you want to call it that, involves the guys and dolls from the stories, and has them meet at Mindy’s Deli, which is where Nicely Nicely got that great strudel.

It might have worked better had the three tales been wrapped in a Scheherazade-like frame story for the waitress, so that we can be involved emotionally with her, instead of having her blab directly to us, a theatrically overused device that’s way too precious – but no doubt appealing to the target audience: seniors and Broadway enthusiasts. Because the songs don’t fit character, the show is missing an arc.

Yet while the musical itself is quickly forgotten, the songs are definitely ear worms. “Let’s Get Lost” (a hit for Chet Baker) and “I Hear Music,” (Blossom Dearie) are swell to hear again, but what the heck are the oft-covered “Heart and Soul” and “Two Sleepy People” doing as the eleven o’clock numbers? (And why is Mindy’s waitress Zelma (a hot Sarah Errington) scatting at work like Ella Fitzgerald?)

With six endearing, vocally awesome — and I mean AWESOME — actors playing thirty characters, this new Runyonland definitely diverts. With names like Haystack Duggler, Ledge Dugan, and Tobias “The Terrible” Tweeney, we get enough Runyonisms and funny wisecracks to wile away the evening. Larry Sousa’s dashing direction and combustible choreography gets a boost from Jack Lipson’s orchestrations and Cris O’Bryon’s sparkling music direction.

photos by Aaron Rumley

Another Roll of the Dice
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach
Wed at 2 (July 31 only) & 7; Thurs & Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on August 4, 2019 EXTENDED to August 11, 2019
for tickets, call 858.481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

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