By GRACE DEAN
“Guys and Dolls” is coming to the Carmel High performing arts center starting March 14, featuring drama teacher Gracie Poletti’s direction, music teacher Brian Handley’s pit orchestra, multiple vocal soloists and performances by CHS teachers Shelley Grahl and Mike Deckelmann.
The musical takes place in New York City, where gambler Nathan Detroit (Darian Schraud) has few options for the location of his big craps game. Needing $1,000 to pay a garage owner to host the game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson (Harrison Herendeen-Hill) that Sky cannot get virtuous Sarah Brown (Rachel Bagby) out on a date. Despite some resistance, Sky negotiates a date with her in exchange for bringing people into her mission. Meanwhile, Nathan’s longtime fiancée, Adelaide (Yvonne DiGirolamo), wants him to marry her.
To Bagby, this show holds particular weight. The CHS senior who has been in countless productions says this will likely be her last time being featured in a school play before she begins her study of musical theater in college. To make bookends, her first play was “Guys and Dolls Junior” when she was part of the ensemble, and now she’s again in the musical, now as a main role and vocal soloist.
Although veterans like Bagby are on the cast, they are accompanied by a new group of up-and-coming theater enthusiasts.
“I’m really excited because there are new people in big roles, which is fun for me,” Poletti says. “There are actually new students in the ensemble as well, so I get to work with a lot of students I haven’t worked with before. We kind of have a new energy in this cast, so I’m excited about how they work together.”
“Guys and Dolls” was first conceived by producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin as an adaptation of Damon Runyon’s short stories written in the 1920s and ‘30s concerning the time’s gangsters, gamblers and other characters of the NYC underworld. After it was first written by Jo Swerling and deemed unusable, radio comedy writer Abe Burrows was asked to rewrite it. The rewritten version seemed to work on Broadway, receiving a Tony Award for Best Musical, and it was shortly made into a film adaptation in 1955 starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.
A large portion of that success is now attributed to the show’s music, written by composer and lyricist Frank Loesser. According to both Poletti and Handley, the score of the play, which will be performed by the 23-member pit orchestra, remains a crowd-pleaser.
“We use the books that professional musicians play on Broadway—not some watered-down school version of it,” Handley explains. “There’s in some cases some virtuosic playing required of the players, especially with the challenging contemporary rhythms.”
The same is required of the show’s soloists and vocal ensemble, who have some fairly intricate harmonies, according to Poletti.
Unlike most CHS productions, “Guys and Dolls” will play only for one weekend from March 14-16 with showings at 7 p.m. every night at the CHS center for performing arts.