Brace yourself for hot times, summer in New York City.
Modesto Performing Arts brings the classic Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls” to colorful life in a new production opening Saturday, Aug. 8. The broad-shouldered show about gamblers, gangsters and their gals harkens back to an idealized era in the Big Apple and will run through Aug. 16 at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
“It’s just a lot of fun. It’s one of the great American musicals,” said Modesto Performing Arts General Director Paul Tischer. “It’s a fantasy show in many ways. The characters are almost cartoonish and very colorful.”
The story centers around a bet made between notorious gambler Sky Masterson (played by MPA veteran Curtis Nelson) and underground craps organizer Nathan Detroit (played by MPA newcomer Daniel Chavez). Interwoven are their relationships with their respective “dolls,” missionary Sarah Brown and longtime fiancée Miss Adelaide (played by MPA regulars Randi Linee and Laura Jensen).
The community theater company last donned the show’s signature pinstripe suits and dance hall dresses in 1994. Tischer said now, 20 years later, felt like a good time to revive the show locally. The Tony-winning musical first debuted on Broadway in 1950 and made the leap to the big screen in 1955, starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. The MPA production has a cast of about 35.
Cast members said getting into the fantasized world of good-guy gamblers and gangsters took a little work at first.
“Once you get used to working with the New York accent and everything, it gets more fun every time you do it,” Jensen said. “It starts to feel more natural and you can get into character.”
Jensen’s Adelaide has endured a 14-year engagement to Nathan. He, meanwhile, has taken slick gambler Sky for what he believes to be a sucker bet – to take straight-laced Sarah on a date to Havana. Nelson, who has played Sky in past productions, was last seen as Don Quixote in MPA’s 2014 summer production, “Man of La Mancha.”
“(Sky) is a real man of the world. He is well educated, but he will bet on anything,” Nelson said. “It’s a wonderful role because of the time period. And it’s a fable about love.”
The musical was created by Frank Loesser based on short stories by American writer and journalist Damon Runyon. Some of the show’s best-known numbers include “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “Luck Be a Lady.”
The MPA staging will feature sets of New York City streets, clubs and more. Tischer is directing along with music director and orchestra conductor David Braceros. Choreography will be by Holly and Heather Bettencourt of Strut Dance Studio, with set design by Noble Dinse and costumes by Tara Roe.
Chavez, who recently moved to Modesto from the Bay Area, said being part of the show has been a good introduction to the area’s art scene.
“Being new to Modesto, this has been an exciting way to meet people,” he said. “The show looks great, and everyone is getting along well together.”