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Guys and Dolls Coming to AU

By Steven Dawson

Guys and Dolls poster

Beautiful dames, well-dressed gangsters, do-gooder ingénues, and easily fooled police officers chasing them all around town, all of whom sing and dance at the most opportune times. Only in Frank Loessor’s, Jo Swerling’s, and Abe Burrows’ world of Guys and Dolls is this considered acceptable, even normal.

The College’s Department of Performing Arts will transport audience members into this world October 18–20 and October 26–27 at 8 p.m., and October 20, 21, and 27 at 2 p.m.

AU’s production of Guys and Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway, under the direction of the Department of Performing Arts’ Karl Kippola and the musical direction of George Fulginiti-Shakar, AU’s music director in residence, will include a full cast of 31 performers bringing to life the colorful characters in this fun- and spectacle-filled story.

A Rich Musical History

Guys and Dolls follows a cast of characters in 1950 in New York, with the main plot focus following the four principal characters. Nathan Detroit, a tightly wound mobster and founder of the “oldest, established, permanent, floating crap game in New York,” has to figure out where he can hold his next gambling racket without being caught by the police, all the while trying to appease his longtime fiancée, Adelaide. Her main goal is to finally nail down Nathan and get married.

Trying to win money to pay a deposit on a racket location, Nathan bets Sky Masterson, another likable mobster who gambles on anything, that Sky cannot talk Sarah Brown, a stiff Salvation Army missionary, into a date to Havana. Sarah’s only mission is to save the souls of all the mobsters. The plot then continues as these characters follow their comedic and error-filled journeys through New York City and Havana.

The musical is based on two short stories by newspaperman and author Damon Runyon, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure.” It also contains characters from many of his other works. Runyon was known for his stories celebrating Broadway and New York during the prohibition era. Guys and Dolls also highlights the dialog style he created, “Runyon-ese,” in which the characters speak with a mixture of formal speech and colorful slang, almost always in present tense, and completely devoid of contractions. This stylization adds to the lovable quirkiness that each of these “hardened” mobsters projects.

The original production of Guys and Dolls opened in the 46th Street Theater on Broadway on November 24, 1950, to rave reviews. The production featured Sam Levene, Vivian Blaine, Robert Alda, and Isabel Bigley. It ran for 1,200 performances. The production also opened in London’s West End on May 28, 1953, and ran for 555 performances. In 1955, the musical was transferred to the big screen starring Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit, Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, Vivian Blaine as Adelaide, and Jean Simmons as Sarah Brown. The production has seen multiple revivals throughout the years, most recently in 2009, proving that no matter the era, Guys and Dolls is an established hit.

The musical has won 30 awards, including eight Tony Awards, two of which were for Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical. It was also selected for the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1951. However, writer Abe Burrows was under scrutiny by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee at the time. Because of this, the trustees of the Pulitzer Prize voted to nullify the award. That is why there is no Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1951.

For more information on the musical, visit Playbill. And to learn more about AU’s production and for other arts news, visit AU Arts.