There are several types of live plays, including comedies, musicals, dramas and suspense who-dunits. The most celebrated of all these are the musicals because of the tremendous response and overflowing crowds.
Pensacola State College (PSC) is offering one of the most cherished musicals of all time with the romantic comedy sensation “Guys and Dolls,” featuring the music and lyrics of Frank Loesser.
Every summer, PSC leaves a spot on their theatre calendar for a show whose cast is strictly high school students. This summer, the Pensacola area has the privilege of witnessing “Guys and Dolls” live on stage in its entire splendor.
“Love makes the world go around, and that’s what this play is about: love, love, love,” said Rodney Whatley, PSC’s Director of Theatre. “Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they fight and then realize they can’t live without each other–with great singing and dancing in between.”
The original production landed on Broadway in 1950 and subsequently ran for 1,200 performances. Throughout the years, the musical has won numerous honors including 19 Tony Awards. Several famous actors and singers have performed in the show, including Frank Sinatra, Nathan Lane, Marlon Brando, Patrick Swayze, Ewan McGregor and Pensacola’s own Ashley Brown.
The stage for this story is centered in New York City. The main character, Nathan Detroit, is a destitute, two-bit gambler. In an effort to change his financial situation, he attempts to set up a crap game after hearing that a lot of high rollers are in town. Detroit needs $1,000 to secure a location for his illegal game and tries to borrow the funds from renowned gambler Sky Masterson. Instead, Detroit bets that he can provide a female who will not accompany Masterson on a trip to Cuba after the gambler brags that every woman desires him.
The woman chosen just happens to be mission worker Sarah Brown, played by Claney Outzen. Brown’s life’s ambition is to stop sin and corruption–especially gambling. Meanwhile, Detroit’s fiancé of 14 years, nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, is pressuring him for a marriage commitment.
“She plays by her own rules,” explained Haylee Grace, cast as Miss Adelaide. “Being a performer and the envy of other dolls in town is not enough for her. She wants to be married, and nothing is going to get in the way of her dream.”
Sarah does indeed go to Cuba with Masterson, and sparks begin to fly between the two. Upon their arrival back in New York, the mission where Brown works has been the site of Detroit’s gambling operation while she was gone. Brown accuses Masterson of setting up the whole scheme via her absence, to which Masterson asks, “What the hell kind of doll are you?” Her answer is, “I’m a Mission
doll,” and then informs him they are no good for each other.
“When a girl comes along who is strong-willed, Sky is not only intrigued but tempted,” appealed Elliott Freeman, who is cast as Masterson. “There is almost an inevitable feeling to connect. As basic physics teaches: opposites attract.”
“The singing voice for Sky was the most important element when casting that character,” Whatley explained. “Elliott showed power and maturity beyond his years. He has artistic ability with great range.”
The crap game is moved into an underground sewer. One of the out-of-towners is a large man by the nickname of Big Jule (Will Patrick). He has established huge losses but won’t let the game end until his winnings replenish, and his pistol is his main motivator. Conflict soon ensues.
The gamblers end up back at the mission, but this time to attend a prayer meeting led by Brown at Masterson’s request. His intention is to rekindle their relationship. The meeting is interrupted by local police officer Lt. Brannigan (Marie Videa) who has intentions of arresting everyone for the crap game held previously in the mission hall. But Brown saves the gamblers and clears up the matter to the Lieutenant’s satisfaction. The show’s conclusion is not only romantic and thought-provoking, but sorts out all the pieces.
The cast is a whopping 43 members playing 82 roles. Whatley has done a tremendous job with organizational aspects of such a huge show while at the same time bringing out the tenderness necessary for certain scenes.
The music director is Diane Queen, while Don Snowden heads the orchestra. The choreographer is Michael Dennis, head costumer Edee Mathews-Green and technical director Bob Gandrup.
“This show is funny, it’s good, it’s clever, it’s exciting, and the characters are pursuing their hearts’ dreams,” Whatley concluded. “You will come out of this performance much happier than when you went in; even if you were ecstatically happy when you sat down.”
Time Magazine called this show “the greatest of all American musicals.” For the price of a ticket, local theatre-goers can judge for themselves.
‘GUYS AND DOLLS’
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, July 29-31, Aug. 5-7
WHERE: Pensacola State College, Ashmore Fine Arts Auditorium, 1000 College Blvd.
DETAILS: 484-1847 or pensacolastate.edu/mt