Conestoga theatre presents “Guys and Dolls”

Conestoga+theatre+presents+%E2%80%9CGuys+and+Dolls%E2%80%9D

By Ian Ong, Centerspread Editor

Photos by Angela Nguyen 

Big city romance. Snappy one-liners. And of course, a sure-fire roll of the dice.

On March 2, Conestoga Theatre will premiere “Guys and Dolls,” a romantic comedy set in New York City in the 1940s that follows the tale of two big city gamblers and their lovers. As the days tick past toward opening night, students have been working hard in the auditorium, showcasing their theatrical talents and specialties.

Preparation and direction

The final production as a whole relies on the many facets of the theatre, with both students and staff collaborating to ensure an opening night on March 2. Director Natalie Gaspari, who has been involved in Conestoga productions since last year’s “Dracula,” expresses her direction for the spring musical.

“There’s definitely a comedic feel to it,” Gaspari said. “There’s a lot more comedy this year than there was last year, and it’s definitely very traditional, so a lot of the values, a lot of the jokes are very traditional but they’re still kind of present today.”

Students have the opportunity to be involved directly in the workings of the musical, including stage crew, set design, sound design, pit, choreography and the ensemble itself. Senior Lissie Torres made her debut as the dance captain for the ensemble this year, meaning that she assists actors who need help with the major dance numbers within the musical and works with choreographer Nathan Shughart, who is also a new addition to the staff.

“This show is coming together really well, and it’s been a blast with our new choreographer and Miss G,” Torres said. “This is definitely my favorite show so far.”

Michael Starner, who has been involved in the lighting and sets for 30 years, works with Noah Austin to create the ideal set for the musical. Starner and Austin began designing the set since the fall drama and have been working on the build since the first week of January. The team has replicated the busy atmosphere of modern America through models of flashy signs and skyscrapers and are currently putting final touches on the set, using paintbrushes to add realistic texture.

We got the vision of the set through “research, imagination and a team effort with us and the kids to what we want to see,” Starner said.

Throughout the musical, the acoustics are managed by sound director Christopher Nation, who also oversees microphones and the sound crew. Nation believes that sound design is dynamic, and feels that senior Callum Hunter, who is in charge of controlling sound from an overlook to the audience’s rear, has done a fantastic job at capturing this musical’s feel.

“Every show has different sound design,” Nation said. “Each production has its own nuances and different challenges to overcome in terms of how we mike things, balance things and create cues for the show.”

Student musicians in the pit (situated in front of the stage) are chosen by audition and receive only six rehearsals total before accompanying the actors during rehearsals, a task that requires many hours of practice on the students’ side. Music director, pit conductor and producer Susanne Dickinger explains the heavy brass tones viewers can expect in terms of the musical scores for the pit and the singers.

“It’s a jazz show,” Dickinger said. “It’s a traditional old school broadway musical, so it’s got a long overture and it’s got a long entrée act.”

Dickinger, who has been involved heavily in Conestoga musicals since 1993, feels that “Guys and Dolls” will be an entertaining yet informative performance for student musicians. 

“We try to do one old-timer show per four years, because it’s important for students to know where contemporary theater today has come from, where it’s evolved from,” Dickinger said.   

Double casting the main roles

“Guys and Dolls” will feature a expansive cast that aims to entertain viewers through their entanglements with the law, money and romance. Sophomore Max Mooney will play the role of Nathan Detroit, a sly gambler drenched in a heavy New York accent that scours the city to find a place to hold his game of craps. He is constantly barraged by the lovely Miss Adelaide, who wants Nathan to quit his gambling so that she can finally marry him after their 14-year engagement. Junior Jack D’Emilio will feature as the rough gambler Sky Masterson, a sinner who ultimately gets into a relationship with a missionary girl, Sarah Brown.

“I have a voice for the character that I put on,” Mooney said. “It’s a more classic voice since it’s a popularly done show, so that helps me get into character.”

The female roles in “Guys and Dolls” will be double casted, with Senior Julia Scribano and Senior Mandy McHale playing the role of Sarah Brown, and with Senior Deanna Drennen and Senior Katie DeVries acting as Adelaide.

We chose to double cast because “we have a lot of talent. That’s the bottom line,” said Gaspari. “We want to utilize that talent as much as we can.”

For each performance, the female leads will alternate, meaning that each performance will have different actors and therefore a unique look and feel. Scribano and Drennan will act during the Wednesday night, Friday night and Saturday morning show; McHale and DeVries will act during the Tuesday morning (for the eighth-graders), Thursday night and Saturday night show. Due to the fact that the roles are double casted, the actresses have the chance to talk and share ideas with another actress who is playing the same role.

“When we were learning the blocking and the songs for the musical, we would be with with our other person,” McHale. “It was actually kind of helpful because you had someone else who was doing the same exact thing as you.”

“It’s great because me and Katie are really good friends, and it’s great to have her support,” Drennan said. “She’s there for me and I’m there for her, but we both get to do our own things.”

The double casting also adds variety and challenges the other actors, who must adapt to fit each show’s mood.

“My two wonderful Sarahs are both incredibly talented people, so every time I get to perform with one of them and then I go to perform with a different one, it’s like a different show every time, which is really exciting as a performer,” D’Emilio said.

Dress rehearsals, which are complete run-throughs, will begin this weekend in preparation for the final production. Tickets are available at www.stogatheatre.com at the rate of $15 for adults and $12 for students.

[unitegallery guysanddolls]

Ian Ong can be reached at [email protected].