‘Guys and Dolls’ message is still pertinent in 2017
When Carol Madsen told her friends she was directing the Ziegfeld Theater Company’s production of “Guys and Dolls,” one said the musical had a “deep, spiritual message.”
“I really didn’t think about that before,” Madsen told The Park Record. “So I thought hard about that and found that it may depend on whose story you tell.”
“Guys and Dolls,” which will open at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, takes place in New York and follows the drama, comedy and romances of Sarah Brown, an idealistic evangelist, gambler Sky Masterson, the flirtatious Hot Box dancer Miss Adelaide and craps game runner Nathan Detroit.
The musical has a hefty history.
It features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a script by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It opened on Broadway in 1950 and was selected for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was adapted into a 1955 film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.
With that background in mind, Madsen and the cast decided to focus on the perspective of Sarah Brown, who is portrayed by Kaycee Neff.
“Sarah Brown begins the show from the position of being very judgmental and somewhat fearful of those whose lives she hopes to change,” Madsen said. “She looks at the gamblers and the Hot Box girls from a position of and ‘us and them’ perspective.”
As the musical continues, Sarah Brown becomes more involved in these people’s lives, particularly gambler Sky Masterson.
“As she falls in love with, she learns of his and the others’ histories as well as their hopes and dreams,” Madsen said. “Through that, they become human to her.”
The characterizations are what move the story along.
“During Kaycee’s audition, I saw she had a willingness in her to try something new, regardless of growing up in a certain culture,” Madsen said. “She has a great sense of comedic timing, which is important for Sarah.”
Masterson is portrayed by JJ Bateman.
“JJ is just Mr. Smooth, and he portrays Sky as this rather aloof, but competent and in-control character,” Madsen said. “He walked into auditions this way, and I thought that’s who he really was, but he isn’t. And I thought it would be great in this role.”
Nathan Sachs plays Detroit.
“I had worked with Nathan at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville, and knew that he would do anything I asked him to do,” Madsen said. “I knew he would throw himself into the role.”
Christie Stolworthy rounds out the lead cast as Miss Adelaide.
“I did a show, ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ with Christie, who played Hedy LaRue,” Madsen said. “She does a really good neurotic character. And this is a great role for her. In fact, Adelaide was a bucket-list role for her since she was in high school.”
As a foursome, the characters work well together, which Madsen said becomes the crux of the production.
“We wanted to make sure that there would be moments when the other cast members would connect with Sarah in meaningful ways,” she said. “We wanted the audience to embark on Sarah’s journey and become willing to suspend judgment of those who don’t act the same or believe the same as they do.”
“Guys and Dolls,” although first presented nearly 70 years ago, discusses political and religious divisions that are still relevant today.
“I, along with everyone else in the country, have experienced this division, and I thought this would be a very good show to do,” Madsen said. “The Ziegfeld Theater has always tried to do shows that welcome and invite a diverse audience together to do and enjoy art, and we wanted to share a message of acceptance.”
The message aside, Madsen said “Guys and Dolls” has a universal appeal.
“People will find something they love, whether it’s the music, the story or some of the characters,” she said. “It’s a fun show. We really enjoyed putting it together, that’s for sure.”
Ziegfeld Theater Company will present the musical “Guys and Dolls” on Friday through Sunday, Nov. 17-19, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21, 22, 24 and 25. Evening curtain is 8 p.m. Sunday’s performance will start at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday tickets range from $23 to $35 and tickets for Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s performances range from $29 to $45. For information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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