The song and dance of ‘Guys and Dolls’
November 30, 2012
When the Park City High School drama department presents Frank Loesser’s Tony Award-winning musical "Guys and Dolls" next week, director and drama teacher D’Arcy Benincosa doesn’t want the audience to say, "It was a good high-school production."
"No," Benincosa said. "I don’t want people to pat the actors on the back and say it was OK. I want them to say ‘Wow! What an outstanding production.’ The show needs to be high-caliber, and we hold our kids to that standard."
The main characters Sky Masterson, Sarah Brown and Nathan Detroit, portrayed by Brett Armstrong, Emma Fox and Matt Groy, respectively, understand that and have already put hours upon hours into rehearsals, by coming in on their lunch breaks and before and after school, Benincosa said.
"What people don’t realize is that for the two hours they see on stage, it has taken four months of preparation," she said. "The kids have risen up to the occasion."
The story, set in the 1940s, is about gambling addictions, gangsters and showgirls, and instead of making light of the theme, Benincosa wanted some dimension in each characters.
"I wanted the two main males to be more than just the happy-go-lucky gangster, and Bret and Matt have really stepped up to the plate," she said. "This is the second year they have worked with me and they know what I want."
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Benincosa asked Groy to play his role on the verge of desperation, because he needs to get $1,000 or his life is ruined.
"Matt has taken everything to another level," she said.
Masterson, on the other hand, has to be cool and collective, but also a little dangerous.
"Brett is so great at being suave in a way, but I’ve also made the scenes between him and Matt, not so light," Benincosa said. "In fact, when they make their bet, which is a catalyst that spurs the rest of the musical onward, the scene is incredibly intense."
Likewise, when Fox adds an edge to her portrayal of Brown.
"Sarah usually is pictured as being uptight until she starts drinking," Benincosa said. "We decided to do something more and worked hard convey a character who is very conflicted. We wanted to show how those emotions are fighting within her."
The high quality of other public entertainment films, traveling Broadway productions and even TV influenced Benincosa to raise the bar not only with the characters, but in the costume and props department as well.
"Every little detail is important to me, so I leave rehearsals around six o’clock and go home to my computer to hunt down the right suits for the boys and the outfits for the girls, because there are so many costume changes in this musical," she said. "I have to get all the fedoras for the boys and make sure their suits not only fit, but match their character. And it’s another story for girls, because Miss Adelaide (portrayed by Rachel Frain) has six different changes and all the outfits have to be pink."
In addition, Benincosa had to find mission outfits and minks for the number ‘Take Back Your Mink.’
"I haven’t had a life for the past few days because I have been ordering all the things that the actors wear or use on stage," she said. "It’s about making sure the production is so good that the audience isn’t taken out of the story because something doesn’t match up. It’s been a hunt, but that’s what makes the production good."
Benincosa said the musical wouldn’t have been the same without production manager Dave Hallock.
"Dave wanted to make the set dark and gritty, because we are dealing with men who have addictions to gambling, and he said he’s done the most artistic preparation for this musical than any other," she said.
Even the choreography by Ciara Murano-Steele, has been stepped up.
"One of the inspirations for the production was when I saw ‘Newsies’ on Broadway last summer," Benincosa said. "They used newspapers in almost every dance, and since ‘Guys and Dolls’ have scenes centered around a newsstand, so, I told Ciara to make the boys dance with newspapers, and she did."
Benincosa chose to present "Guys and Dolls" because she felt the community wanted to see a classic musical.
The year before she became Park City High School’s drama teacher, the department did a production of ‘Urinetown,’ which a lot of people didn’t quite warm up to, because it was different, Benincosa said.
"Last year, I chose to do ‘Pippin,’ which I loved, but a lot of people still didn’t know what to think of it," she said. "We realized the community wanted something more traditional and recognizable that was an old-time, song-and-dance piece.
"So, we looked at ‘e-Bye Birdie’ and a few of the others, but went with ‘Guys and Dolls,’" Benincosa said. "It had been a decade since it was last done here, and many people are familiar with the title."
Benincosa hopes more people will come to the performance because it is a classic musical that will presented at the highest quality possible.
"My goal is to get as many people to as those who go see a football game," she said. "Maybe since I’ve lived and worked in New York, I want to give the audience a real experience and not just a high-school musical.
Park City High School Drama Department will present the musical "Guys and Dolls," Thursday, Dec. 6, and Friday, Dec. 7, at 7p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Eccles Center for the Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Tickets are $8 at the door.