Guys and dolls is a musical production, with text written by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows, and music and lyrics written by Frank Loesser. Both writers and lyricists from this play are also known for their production of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. The director for this production is Kirk Elsinger, and music director, Mia Spencer, a vocal coach for Central Washington University’s music program. The production is put on by Valley Musical Theatre company in Ellensburg, Washington, and before this production, they put on High School of Rock Jr, in the spring. Guys and dolls, a play that is a gamble in it of itself, has promises made on thin strings, bets too crazy for any sane person to take on, and overall, a comparison to the lifestyles and ideals of the 20s. If anything, it still teaches that life is way more exciting when you take chances. Accompanied by Jazz show tunes, ballads, and a tango or two, the play’s musical numbers add the final touch for that 20s roar. The production was an overall success in quality and performance, with highlight performances from Abby Hughes as Miss Adelaide, and Tor Blaisdell as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Other honorable mentions by Adrienne Shields as Sarah Brown, Austin Tinnel as Sky Masterson, and John Mcguire as Nathan Detroit.
At the start of the play, two characters are brought to the front, they converse about a recent horse race they gambled, then a lady from a missionary comes to tell them to repent for their sins of gambling. The play is built on the bets and gambles made by main characters in the play, from a promised marriage to a crap game happening a specific location, and date with that same missionary lady. The idea of repentance does not come quickly to the characters, another one gamble and another are taken, it is not till a gamble is unable to be met that disaster falls on the characters. After calamity hits the characters, it only took one character’s change of heart to stop the rest from continuing with their vices. At the end of the play, conflicts are resolved and the end results of their previous actions are left to be dealt with but are done all in good spirit.
Guys and Dolls holds a sense of excitement that comes only from the player’s constant gambles and risks. Through Tinnel’s performance as Sky Masterson, he plays that has won all bets he’s made, so taking the bet of taking a doll to Cuba, He ends up having to take Sarah Brown, and Adrienne Shields does a justice to her character by putting all her religious walls, only to finally give in to Sky’s request. However, the biggest gambles are made John Mcguire Character, Nathan Detroit, who plays a smooth, sly engaged man, trying to escape from owing anybody anything, and thus, creates a train of consequences that follows him after every gamble he makes. One of these gambles is hiding the fact he’s been arranging gambling games behind his fiancé’s back, but he’s not the only that is hiding something. Abby Hughes plays a preppy and peppy Miss Adelaide who only wants to be married and become a housewife. Her laments and constant reminders to Nathan assure that she has had enough with Nathan’s timing, so to push him, she tells her mother that they’re already engaged! Even this, Nathan is too focused on games to plan a wedding, just like how Sarah Brown is so focused on her missionary, that she agrees to be taken on a date with Sky, only if Sky agrees to bring in a dozen sinners to her prayer meeting. As each character takes a risk, the story enriches and provides an exciting ride that does let
In the play’s time era, the biggest thing that sold was romances that had women always falling for their complete opposites. Sarah Brown, for example, is a steadfast lady that has her heart set in the laws and missions of Biblical scripture. If anything seems remotely close to sin, it is so and she insists repentance to occur immediately. Her opposite, is Sky Masterson, a man whose life has been based on his ability to win any given bet, from small simple bets to the craziest bets that would be betting all odds against him. He, of course, takes chances, lives life as it comes, and makes sure he gets the outcome he wants. So, when Sky is making a bet with Nathan that he couldn’t take Sarah out on a day within a 72-hour range, Sky takes on the bet. With time and patience, Sarah is wooed away from her religious ways to take a chance with Sky. Again, with a bit of time and perseverance, anything is possible, even wooing a difficult woman. However, in Sky and Sarah’s case, it is not that Sky forced a relationship, rather, he just did what he could to make sure a bet is won.
In the case of Nathan and Adelaide though, it is not an as pleasant situation. The want of marriage from Adelaide pressed her to lie to her mother about already being married, while on Nathan’s side, he was not ready at all to take on the responsibility and has always put it to the side as he runs his gambling games. Fear of not being able to arrange gambling games, Nathan does what he can to postpone his marriage until he finds a way to find a balance between his games and being with Adelaide. Nathan’s goal shatters as pressure is placed on him after learning that she had already told her mother that they were married. Not being married, especially for a woman, meant they are considered unwanted and have gone against their purpose in life. At least, that is the belief of the era. Such a belief was once held strongly by Americans but is not thought to be a dated concept.
All things considered, Valley Musical Theatre puts on the dazzling performance of Guys and Dolls. With its jazz orchestra to set the 20s mood, the big billboards, and the loud, boastful, and arrogant New York crowds, the cast of Guys and Dolls captures the essence of the roaring 20s. The set designs by Kathleen Beach, in particular, were simple enough to not distract from the actors themselves, but elaborate enough to depict New York in its hay day. The costumes were spot on, from the gamblers to Miss Adelaide’s backup dancers, even the folks from Cuba had their own prominent look, Maria Manning’s simple choices in clothing made it seem like choosing clothes from the 1920s is an easy task! It may be, but neither less, she made it look and feel like the 1920s. The Orchestra pit, as directed by Andrew Spencer, made no mistakes big enough to detour me from the story, but their loud instrumentals and accompaniment helped them to become a character within the play as well, not just rhythm section players made to only provide background music.
With nothing to distract me from the story itself, watching the play felt smooth, and as if the actors not only memorized their lines but also, bought into their characters. The biggest difference between watching a play and reading the text is that as I watch a play, I see multiple interpretations of all the characters and environments, whereas if I read it on my own, I would only have what my imagination could come up with. I personally prefer seeing a collaborate effort, rather than trying to think about how every character and scene is supposed to look like.
From the experience I have had from doing musicals in high school, the staging techniques did not seem to be anything out of the ordinary. There were no stage platforms for the actors to step up onto, or set pieces that moved during the performance. It looked like monolog, with a bit of movement, so that the characters are not static the how time. There were the dance numbers and the marches from the missionary scenes, but not much else as far as stage techniques. The director had a fairly common stage, but it’s used more for band or orchestra concerts. There was an enormous amount of room in the back, which was used to create the cityscapes of New York. If any restrictions, I did not see a curtain being used, nor one that could be used, which makes set movements visible to the audiences during scene changes.
With that in mind, I was able to focus on what type of play I was actually watching. What it resembled was the classical Broadway show, which to me, looks like a modernized opera. The singers a top notch, and their lines are enough to tell thousand page stories, it sounded like going from an aria, recitative, then back to an aria, except, with a jazzier sound. my overall experience of the production was a thrill to have! In conclusion, though the content was a bit dated, as in, there was no effort to modernize the story, it still made a great lasting impression on my mind. As I enjoyed watching every character take a risk, bringing them to exciting and terrifying outcomes, all to either prove themselves, escape reality or just to get a thrill out of life, I realized there was no risk to watch Valley Musical Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls.