As the success of The Godfather and The Sopranos indicates, audiences seem to be fascinated with gangsters and their women.
The hit musical Guys and Dolls is certainly part of that tradition. The show has seen many revivals, including a 1976 Motown version with an all-black cast.
The original version opened on Broadway Nov. 24, 1950. It went on to win five Tonys in 1951, including the award for best musical. In 1955, the screen version starred Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. Characters such as Nathan Detroit, Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Sky Masterson continue to enthrall audiences today.
Guys and Dolls has also has become a favorite with high school and college theater departments. The latest version comes from the Savannah College of Art and Design’s performing arts department for a three-day run, May 3, 4 and 5 at 8 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre.
Guys and Dolls is the story of petty criminals and professional gamblers. Nathan Detroit runs a floating craps game, despite the entreaties of his fiancee, Miss Adelaide.
Adelaide, a nightclub singer, wants Nathan to go straight. But when some high-rollers come to town, Nathan can’t resist the lure of a possible big score.
The only place he can find to hold the game is a hotel garage, and it’s going to cost him $1,000, a sizeable sum in the 1950s. To get the money, Nathan goes to Sky Masterson, a gambler who will bet on anything.
Nathan bets Sky that he can’t get Sarah Brown, a straight-walking do-gooder from the Save-a-Soul Mission, to go to dinner with him. What follows is lots of fun, love and good music, including the songs Luck Be a Lady and A Bushel and a Peck.
Jessica Giannone plays the role of Miss Adelaide, Nathan Detroit’s long-time (as in 14 years long) fiancee. Giannone was originally a dancer.
“When we moved to Nashville, Tenn., I started doing musical theater,” she says. “I went to a summer musical theater camp in New York. There’s nothing I love more than musical theater.”
Giannone is a second-year student working towards an MFA in theater. She plans to earn a master’s degree. “Then I’m going to go out and start auditioning right away,” she says.
To prepare for the role, Giannone watched the film version of Guys and Dolls and listened to cast recordings. “I always have meetings with the director to discuss my part,” she says.
“Adelaide is such an original character,” Giannone says. “She and I have a lot in common.”
This is Giannone’s first main-stage production at SCAD. “I love rehearsals,” she says.
“It’s the best part of doing the show. You get to know everybody.”
The production is being directed by Jeffrey DeVincent.
“This is a very exciting production,” he says. “These are stylized 1930s gangsters and their ladies.
“It’s a story of competition,” DeVincent says. “I have a spectacular cast. The students are wonderful and they all have a sense of humor.”
There are 39 students in the production, not including those behind the scenes. By the first performance, the students will have put in 42 rehearsals.
“The students were all familiar with the movie, but none were familiar with what the show is like live,” DeVincent says. “They were skeptical at first.”
DeVincent had no such worries. “I’ve been influenced by Warner Brothers and The Carol Burnett Show,” he says. “The humor in this show is wonderful and honest. The movie was much slower-paced, but this is going to be a Guys and Dolls they’ve never seen before,” DeVincent says.
“It will have gorgeous voices breathing new life into musical theater traditions.” ƒç
Savannah College of Art and Design’s performing arts department presents Guys and Dolls May 3, 4 and 5 at 8 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre. $10 for the general public and $5 for students with ID and seniors. Call 525-5050.