'Guys and Dolls' brings the Big Apple to Griswold HS

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Apr. 26, 2011
The Hot Box dancers perform 'A Bushel and a Peck' in 'Guys and Dolls.' Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
The Hot Box dancers perform 'A Bushel and a Peck' in 'Guys and Dolls.' Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The 1950s heyday of New York City, brought to vivid life by author Damon Runyan, takes center stage this weekend, as Griswold High School’s drama club performs the classic musical, “Guys and Dolls.”

Times Square is the setting, and the play is populated with characters like Adelaide, the ditzy showgirl who’s been waiting 14 years for her gambler boyfriend to marry her; slick street hustler Sky Masterson; a band of holier-than-thou Salvation Army missionaries; and gamblers with names like Nicely-Nicely, Rusty Charlie and Harry the Horse.

Director/producer Raymond Churchill, who’s steering his 17th spring musical at GHS, said that he chose this play as an opportunity for his large cast to get plenty of time in the spotlight.

“Every year, I tailor [the play] to what the kids can do,” he said. The previous two years’ productions were “not big dance number kinds of shows.”

“Guys and Dolls,” by contrast, has plenty of ensemble scenes, from a secret craps game to a gaudy burlesque hall to a street mission church. One number, the gospel-inflected “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” is scripted for 15 singers. Instead, Churchill is using 70. “The [full] cast gets to be on stage a lot more, and when they are, they’re very active,” he said.

The play follows two parallel love stories: long-suffering Adelaide’s efforts to get the procrastinating Nathan Detroit to say “I do,” and smooth-talking Sky’s effort to win a $1,000 bet that he can convince Sister Sarah, a lovely but prim missionary, to accompany him to Havana. Inevitably, in both cases, love conquers all, but not before a clandestine installment of “the oldest established permanent floating craps game in New York.”

Along the way, gamblers, policemen, dance-hall girls and missionaries add local color with tunes like “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “Follow the Fold” and the sublimely hilarious opening piece, “Fugue for Tinhorns.”

Churchill said this year’s musical features a “pretty heavy senior-laden class… [which has been] achieving at a very high level throughout their four years. And this is their swan song.”

But, he hastened to add, “we’ve got a pretty good stable full of freshmen and sophomores.”

Churchill noted in this year’s program book that, contrary to popular misconception, GHS’s lavish musicals are run primarily on funds from local business sponsors. “Facility use and my stipend are the only dollars that come from the town budget,” he said. “The only way we survive is through ticket sales, advertising revenue and generous corporate donations. This program serves almost 300 GHS students nearly free of the taxpayer dollar.”

The list of involved students includes groups working on lighting, props, sound and video crews, program graphic design, set painting and construction, costumes, hair and makeup, marketing and photography.

Churchill said that, as of Monday, there were still tickets available at the school box office, as well as through the website www.griswolddrama.com. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday, April 27-30, at 7 p.m., with an additional 1 p.m. Saturday matinee.

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