Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The audience started clapping at 9 p.m. Not because the version of "Guys and Dolls" which opened at the Carter Barron Amphitheater Tuesday night was setting them on the edge of their seats, but because it was a half hour late starting.
And when this version of the fabled American musical about luck in love and gambling did start a few minutes later, it moved along faithfully, more relaxed than robust. It stars an all-black cast, a formula that packed the National Theater and Broadway in the last year, but only attracted half a house Tuesday night.
As a vehicle for its leads, Leslie Uggams and Richard Roundtree, both featured earlier this year in the phemomenally successful television version of "Root," the production provides the substantive, and still funny characters and musical numbers, which remain humble after 27 years.
In the generation since its creation, however, some of those characterizations that were stereotypes even in the 1950s have become unbelievable. Tha street characters inspired by the Broadway stories of Damon Runyon are timeless. But today protraits of women who are long-suffering, gullible and matriarchic are major annoyances.
Luckily, and ironically, the strengths of Uggams, as Sister Sarah Brown, and Deborah Allen, as Adelaide, pull a periodically sluggish production through. When Uggams' Sister Sarah sheds the aloof, straight-laced veneer of the missionary and becomes a romantic, relaxed woman, Uggams glows.
Roundtree, who came on the scene first as a model and then as bad, bad "Shaft" of the movies, displays abroad and dry humorous approach to his dual role as heartbreaker and gambler. Every once in a while, in his musical numbers, a shade of Nat King Cole sneaks through, but, generally, Roundtree's voice is passable.
For the "Guys and Dolls" aficionados, the showstopper songs of Frank Loesser are ingrained with the show's best moments fo energy. "If I Were A Bell," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "Luck Be a Lady Tonight," and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," are all rousing, even despite the severe microphone problems Tuesday night.The show continues through Sunday.