George School Presents Colorful Production of Guys and Dolls
Friday, February 16, 2007
Issued: February 16
George School’s Musical Theater class will perform Guys and Dolls on Friday, February 23, and Saturday, February 24, 2007, at 8:00 p.m. in Walton Center Auditorium on the George School campus. The shows are free and open to the public.
With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling, Abe Burrows, and Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls won a Tony Award for Best Musical when it was originally performed on Broadway in 1951. It tells the story of the romantic and legal high jinks that result when several gamblers, intent on holding an illegal craps game, collide with a group of Salvation Army missionaries and a determined police lieutenant in New York City. The show features memorable songs such as “Luck Be a Lady,” “If I Were a Bell,” and “A Bushel and a Peck.”
“The music is great,” said George School drama and musical theater teacher Maureen West, the director of the production. She explained that the shows for the Musical Theater class are chosen in a way that gives students “the opportunity to experience different kinds of musical theater.” For two out of every three years, the class performs a show that features an ensemble cast. Once every three years, however, the class performs a show like Guys and Dolls—one that follows the standard American musical formula that was prevalent between 1920 and 1960, with clearly defined lead roles, supporting roles, and a chorus.
While such shows provide valuable experiences for performers, Maureen noted, the fact that they are “not politically correct by today’s standards” poses a significant problem. “Oftentimes a certain culture will be the butt of jokes, or the female roles are outdated stereotypes,” Maureen explained. In Guys and Dolls, for example, gambler Nathan Detroit has been engaged to the dancer Miss Adelaide for fourteen years, continually postponing their wedding. Instead of breaking up with him, Adelaide puts her life on hold and waits for him to finally set a wedding date. “We can’t relate to that today,” Maureen said. In addition, the show appears to celebrate the moment in which female lead Sarah Brown abandons her principles and falls in love with the suave gambler Sky Masterson, a man who epitomizes the values she opposes in her work as a Salvation Army missionary. Emily Lattal (a junior from New Hope, Pennsylvania), who plays Sarah, explained, “She’s very strong-willed, very committed to the work she’s doing. And then she does a complete flip, and falls in love with a gambler.”
Maureen has chosen to confront these problems directly, turning them into an acting challenge for the students. “I’ve talked about this with the kids, and as a result, what we’re going for is much more of a cartoon style of acting,” she said. With carefully exaggerated facial expressions, line delivery, and gestures, along with colorful costumes, the students’ performances will reflect an awareness that the events in the story should be taken with a grain of salt.
In the role of Sky Masterson, George School senior Sky Edenhart-Pepe of Richboro, Pennsylvania, has learned that delivering one’s lines in a flowing, lyrical manner, “like you’re singing,” helps to create the cartoonlike style of acting that the production is aiming for. In addition, he said, “hand movements always seem to help.” Katherine Belding, a senior from Newtown, Pennsylvania, who plays the role of Miss Adelaide, agreed. “Every gesture, every hand movement, every word I say has to be a little bit bigger than what I would think,” she said.
George School vocal music teacher Jacqueline Coren, the musical director for the show, stated of the show, “It’s a fun story. The characters are colorful. The songs are well matched to the characters.” She added, “As cartoonish as everybody is, nobody is monochromatic.”
As with all musical theater productions at George School, costumes are by Liz Lukac, choreography is by David Abers, and sets are designed by Scott Hoskins and built by his stagecraft classes. For more information about the show, please call 215-579-6568.