They know every note by rote. But the cast of Broadway’s smash hit Guys and Dolls revival, gathered in early May to make a new recording of Frank Loesser’s classic score — which has just arrived in stores — are listening to Faith Prince tear into her big showstopper, ”Adelaide’s Lament,” as raptly as if it were opening night. Listeners can’t get enough either; initial shipments to retailers totaled an astounding 100,000 CDs and cassettes.
It’s easy to understand why Prince, who won a Tony for her role, so entrances her fellow actors. Prince at the microphone is Miss Adelaide — the post-nasal-drip-afflicted girlfriend of gambler nogoodnik Nathan Detroit. She puts a fresh take on every syllable as she enumerates the perils of 14-year engagements: ”From a lack of community property/ And a feeling she’s getting too old/A person — can develop a baad, baaad coooold…Achoo!”
Bravos break out from the relatives, friends, and technicians watching her through a picture window. Yet there’s no gushing show of approval from the tag team guiding this all-day recording session. Grammy-winning producer Jay David Saks keeps his eyes on the score. ”I never look up at the singers,” he says, ”because no one listening to the CD will see them acting. They have to bring all the characterization into their voices.” The show’s director, Jerry Zaks (also a Tony winner for G&D), sits with his back to the vast digital-tape monitoring console, nearly wincing with concentration. Between takes, he scurries out of the booth to counsel the singers.
Prince has Adelaide down so pat she needs few takes and little advice. And though Nathan Lane arrives nervous about rendering his Nathan Detroit for posterity, he quickly gets ”Sue Me,” a terrific duet with Prince, into the can. But Walter Bobbie, who plays Nicely-Nicely Johnson, is so petrified at performing ”Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” he has to run to the men’s room first, there confiding to a fellow singer, ”I’m scared. I can’t do this.” He does it beautifully in just three takes, then can’t stop asking, ”Was it okay?” Similar worries weigh on the bushy brow of Peter Gallagher (sex, lies and videotape, The Player), who plays Sky Masterson to Josie de Guzman’s prim Salvation Army doll, Sarah. Luck being no lady this night, Gallagher has a bad, bad cold, and despite Felix Unger sinus-clearing noises and Lamaze-style breathing exercises, he can’t nail a satisfactory take of ”I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Still, as a midnight deadline approaches — when overtime kicks in at thousands of dollars per minute — Saks coaxes enough to piece together a smooth track from multiple takes. In fact, in the final Guys and Dolls mix Gallagher sounds far stronger than he does on stage — which goes to show what a little skillful editing can do for a film actor.