Guys and Dolls won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1950. Five years later, Marlon Brando, in a rare singing role, stared alongside Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blain and Jean Simmons in the film version.
This month, audiences can enjoy the classic musical comedy at the Weston Playhouse Theatre.
The script for Guys and Dolls was based on short stories by Damon Runyon.
Runyon wrote comic vignettes about the seedier side of Times Square during Prohibition in the 1920s and '30s. His stories are filled with characters such as Harry the Horse, Liver Lips Louie and Bennie South Street, as well as a pious do-gooder named Sarah Brown.
Malcolm Ewen, who’s directing Guys and Dolls at the Weston Playhouse, describes the musical as a show about sinners saviors and everybody in between. “It’s the kind of show where the gangsters are not really, you don’t find them to be bad guys or awful characters." For the most part, he says, "they’re the people you cheer for.”
Especially when they fall in love – and Guys and Dolls is the ultimate gangster love story. Two love stories, in fact, says Ewen.
One involves Sky Masterson, a handsome gambler who falls in love with the prim and proper Sarah Brown. The irony here is that she’s a Salvation Army officer who’s trying to save the souls of as many gangsters as possible.
The other romance involves a sweetly ditzy nightclub singer name Miss Adelaide, and her fiancé of 14 years, Nathan Detroit.
Actor Sam Lloyd Jr. plays Detroit, a con artist with a good heart – but poor follow through – who can never seem to get around to marrying his long-time lady love.
“You know, he is the comic foil, and it’s written beautifully," says Lloyd. "So I get a lot of funny stuff to say, which is always fun. And he’s a gangster. What’s more fun that playing a gangster?”
Marissa McGowan describes her character, Miss Adelaide, as equally fun to play, thanks in a large part to Frank Loesser’s music and Runyon’s rich source material.
“She’s a woman who’s desperate to marry the man she’s in love with and he’s dragging his feet and she’s a little cooky,” she says. McGowan pinches her voice to sound nasal and adds, in character, “Adelaide gets a psychosomatic cold because of it.”
She and Lloyd slide into character and begin bantering in Runyonesque dialog.
“How are you, handsome?”
“Fine. What’s that you’ve got there?”
“A book,” Adelaide says, giggling.
“A book? You always reading books. You’re getting to be a regular bookie!”
Adelaide laughs, “Oh, Nathan ... The doctor gave it to me. I went to him about my cold.”
“Oh, how is your cold?”
"It’s the same! And my doctor asked me how long I’d had it and I told him a long time. And I said I thought it was on account of my dancing with hardly any clothes on, which is what I usually wear. And he said to read this book because he says it might be due to psychology."
“You haven’t got that, have you?” asks Nathan incredulously.
Sam Lloyd shakes his head, smiling, “It’s the language that this show brings from Runyon’s stories, which is, they’re street tough guys but they speak rather eloquently despite the fact that they’re really tough guys. The language is really part of the fun of it. And it’s been really ripped off. That kind of gangster talk, Runyon started that,” says Lloyd.
Besides a great script, director Maclolm Ewen says the songs of Guys and Dolls are equally brilliant.
“Luck be a Lady,” “I’ll Know” and “Adelaide’s Lament” are just a few of the memorable numbers. Ewen says Adelaide sings one of his favorites – “Take Back Your Mink” – at the start of Act 2 when she learns Nathan is still gambling despite multiple promises that he’s on the straight and narrow. Gowned in long pink satin, Adelaide and a chorus of dancing girls toss their white furs to the floor along with their necklaces, hats and well, eventually even their dresses.
If you’ve never seen Guys and Dolls, or even if you’ve seen it several times, actors Sam Lloyd and Marissa McGowan say it’s definitely worth seeing again.
“I mean, it’s got gangsters and gambling!" says Lloyd.
“And girls in their underwear, too!” adds McGowan laughing. “I don’t think you’d be able to walk out of the theater without a smile on your face,” she says sincerely.
Adds Lloyd, “I dare you.”
The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company will present Guys and Dolls through August 22 at the Weston Playhouse Theater. Learn more here.