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Theater Review: “Another Roll of the Dice”

“Another Roll of the Dice” plays through Aug. 11 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach.
Photo credit:
Aaron Rumley

Those wild and crazy touts, dolls and light-fingered crooks are back in town, pulling heists, betting on losing horses and always – always – trying to impress those dolls in the New York City of the 1930s and ’40s.

Sound like “Guys and Dolls?” Well....it is, and it isn’t. The world premiere of “Another Roll of the Dice” uses Frank Loesser’s pop songs (not the ones he wrote for the Broadway stage) along with other pop songs by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael (“Two Sleepy People,” “Heart and Soul”) and Burton Lane (“I Hear Music”). The book by Mark Saltzman tells stories based on Damon Runyon’s characters.

Six extraordinarily talented singing actors – Lance Carter, Sarah Errington, Elliot Lazar, Jason Maddy, Allison Spratt Pearce and Darrick Penny – play a total of 29 characters in this goofy songfest, with Runyonesque names like Joey Uptown, Tobias the Terrible and Touch Feely the safecracker.

They always meet at Mindy’s Deli, where the waitress (Sarah Errington) has a smart-ass remark for any occasion (“We serve high-class food to low-class customers”) and a voice big as all outdoors.

“Another Roll of the Dice” plays through Aug. 11 at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Larry Sousa directs and choreographs the show.

“Dice” is more a series of unconnected (or barely connected) vignettes about those underworld characters than it is a coherent story that goes anywhere.

(Hey, you take a bunch of songs already written and try to write a script around them.)

Two of the actors are new to local audiences. Elliot Lazar is adorable as newly-minted engineering grad Tobias, drafted to be the driver of the getaway car for an upcoming heist, and fated to fall for one of the dolls.

New Yorker Darrick Penny plays an assortment of gangland types as if to the manner born. I’d be happy to see both these actors back on local stages soon.

Allison Spratt Pearce gets two stand-out scenes. When Tobias wants to impress doll Deborah, he winds up in the clutches of nightclub songbird Georgia St. George (Pearce), who gives him a hilarious dance lesson (or, as she puts it, “love lessons”) to the strains of Loesser’s “Why Fight the Feeling?”

Pearce also does herself proud with Frederick Hollander’s “The Boys in the Backroom,” a Marlene Dietrich favorite as well.

Lance Carter and Jason Maddy add to the amusement quotient playing multiple shady characters with names like Moose Mason, Monotone Milano and Sammy the Shirt.

Set designer Marty Burnett’s eight movable panels and lots of movable furniture work nicely for this all-over-the-place set of vignettes. Lighting and sound are well handled by Matt Novotny and Ryan Ford, respectively.

Kudos to musical director Cris O’Brien and the mighty quartet of musicians, and to Jack Lipson for the arrangements, orchestration and additional music.

“Dice” is an amusing pastiche. It’s not on the level of its venerable predecessor and would benefit from fewer vignettes and more story, but it offers a fun evening’s entertainment.

The details

“Another Roll of the Dice” plays through Aug. 11 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7 pm.; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or northcoastrep.org