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Guys and Dolls – The New Broadway Cast Recording 1992

Guys and Dolls – The New Broadway Cast Recording 1992

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Synopsis

When a new musical called Guys And Dolls was announced in 1949, who would have bet that a show about racetrack touts and Rialto louts, based on short stories by newshound Damon Runyon, would become a musical theater classic? For starters, producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin were rookies; they had scored the previous season with Where’s Charley?, but that may have been a lucky first strike. Composer and lyricist Frank Loesser had written the hits “Once in Love With Amy” and “My Darling, My Darling,” among others, for Where ‘s Charley?, but these tunes were charmingly direct, far from the urban brass and bustle that Runyon’s gamblers and strippers required. (Loesser’s immensely successful songwriting career was based in Hollywood, not on Broadway.) Theatrical giant George S. Kaufman was slated to direct, but he had not had a musical on Broadway since the disappointing Park Avenue in 1946. Runyon’s “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” had stumped a dozen writers before screenwriter Jo Swerling tackled the project. However, Swerling’s efforts were later substantially rewritten by Abe Burrows, a waggish radio and television scriptwriter making his theatrical debut. And there wasn’t a real Broadway musical name in the cast. All in all, if the show’s backers were nervous about their $200,000-plus wager, it’s understandable. Betting on the success of a new show is like betting on how far you can kick a piece of cheesecake. But critics jockeyed for superlatives during the show’s five-week try-out in Philadelphia during the fall of 1950; “perfect” and “a resounding hit” were typical verdicts. When the musical opened at Broadway’s 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers) on November 24, 1950, the next day’s papers proclaimed Guys And Dolls “a perfect musical comedy.” “It’s the Oklahoma! of the horse players, the South Pacific of the crapshooters,” exclaimed one critic, while Brooks Atkinson termed the show “a musical play that Broadway can be proud of . . . a work of art.” When the current dazzling revival of the self-proclaimed “Musical Fable of Broadway” opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on April 14, 1992, the unprecedented happened. It wasn’t the unanimous rave reviews, the screaming ovations, the record-breaking box office business – although these were nothing to sneeze at. Rather, the New York Times – a journal not prone to whimsy – marked the opening with a front page photo of Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide as if they were real people, not characters in a musical; the fictional gambler and his moll were heralded with the fanfare normally accorded visiting royalty. The musical fable had become theatrical legend. Guys And Dolls opens in brash, flashy Runyonland – the comic-book Times Square of a hayseed’s dreams-where cops, con men, simpering lasses, ladies of dubious morals and Salvation Army types parade. Nathan Detroit, a harried but avid gambler, has to raise $1,000 to front the floating crap game he runs. Nathan bets the dashing Sky Masterson that the next girl Sky sees will fall for him. And the next girl Sky sees is the prim Sarah Brown, who runs the shabby Save-a-Soul Mission. After Sky sweeps Sarah down to Havana for a rendezvous, they fall for each other. Meanwhile, Nathan keeps jilting Miss Adelaide, the nightclub chantootsie to whom he has been engaged for fourteen years, giving her a fierce case of psychosomatic sniffles from never marching to the altar. After appropriate comic complications, Nathan gets his game, Sky comes down to earth, Sarah saves a soul and Adelaide gets rid of her cold. Frank Loesser was the producers’ first choice for composer and lyricist – an intense, driven New Yorker as vibrant as any of Runyon’s worldly innocents. Born in 1910 and raised on West 107th Street, Loesser was a musically gifted youth: by age seven, he was making up words to go with the clickety-clack rhythm of the elevated trains that clattered through his neighborhood. Growing up in a musically highbrow family, however, Frank was the lesser Loesser: his father was a serious musician and his brother a noted classical pianist and scholar. Young Frank was more interested in popular pastimes: baseball, the movies and horse racing, although his cultured background and mainstream tastes led some to call him the Verdi of Times Square. By 1937 Loesser was working in Hollywood, where he wrote the lyrics for such songs as: “Two Sleepy People” (music by Hoagy Carmichael), “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You” (music by Jule Styne) and “They’re Either Too Young Or Too Old” (music by Arthur Schwartz). The first hit for which he wrote words and music was “Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition,” composed after Pearl Harbor to commemorate a gallant Army chaplain. From then on, Loesser tunes were always on the hit parade, among them “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year,” “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which won an Academy Award® as Best Song. By the time Abe Burrows began rewriting the book by entwining episodes and characters from “Sarah Brown” and other stories, Loesser had already written fourteen numbers for the show. The Brooklyn-born Burrows was no stranger to the Guys And Dolls milieu; Runyon had once told him, “My boy, you write New York dialect well.” Following the breakthroughs made by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Guys And Dolls seamlessly integrates story with song and dance, so that numbers advance plot and reveal personality. Scenes are fast and funny, telegraphing plot points with humor and precision. Burrows readily acknowledged the lessons about structure and exposition that Kaufman taught. When Loesser wanted to reprise a song in the second act, Kaufman countered with, “I’ll let you reprise as many songs as you want in the second act if you let me reprise some of the jokes from the first act.” The score underwent a few changes along the way. Fugue For Tinhorns started out as the milder “Three-Cornered Tune.” Adelaide’s Lament, originally about the occupational hazards of removing one’s clothes in drafty nightclubs, became the singer’s litany of psychosomatic symptoms caused by man trouble. A Bushel And A Peck opened the second act, but it was such a huge hit even before the show premiered (dozens of artists recorded the song) that it was moved to the first act. Producer Ernest Martin said that If I Were A Bell had been written out of the show twice and is sung by a character it wasn’t written for. Five other songs were cut and Loesser, reluctant to offend female viewers, changed Adelaide from Runyon’s stripper to a nightclub singer, albeit one who undresses in public. The original production ran for 1200 performances and garnered just about every prize there is, including Tony Awards® for Best Musical, for Robert Aida as Sky Masterson, Isabel Bigley as Sarah Brown, director George S. Kaufman, producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, book writers Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, composer Frank Loesser, and choreographer Michael Kidd. (Vivian Blaine, practically worshipped as Miss Adelaide, lost out to Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam.) Guys And Dolls ran for 555 performances in London, again with Blaine, Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit, and Stubby Kaye as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. The property was sold to film producer Samuel Goldwyn for an unprecedented $1 million. The 1955 film starred Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. Other major productions include a 1966 City Center Theatre revival in New York, 1976 all-black cast which racked up 239 performances on Broadway, and in 1982, London’s National Theatre’s acclaimed revival. The current production is no stranger to acclaim. Nearly every single reviewer praised the show as perfect and found glowing things to say about the cast. Peter Gallagher was hailed by Frank Rich of the New York Times as “a heaven-sent Sky Masterson with brooding good looks, a voice that always remains both in mellow key and in gritty character.” “Is there a better young actor in the theatre today than Nathan Lane?” asked Edith Oliver in The New Yorker. “His dedicated Nathan Detroit (dedicated to gambling, that is) is a total success and all his own.” Oliver found that “Josie de Guzman, a charmer, is exactly right as Sarah Brown, serious and loving as the Salvation Army girl who would ring like a bell or swing like a gate, and will know when her love comes along.” Jack Kroll of Newsweek wrote of Faith Prince, “With her Judy Holliday stare and a voice like a trumpet with a Brooklyn accent, Prince is an exploding star who recreates that big bang.” After lengthy negotiations, New York’s Dodger Productions acquired the performance rights to Guys And Dolls in 1990 and put together the dynamic creative team responsible for the glittering success of this phenomenal production. Jerry Zaks’s direction was applauded for its energy, zest and imagination, while Christopher Chadman’s choreography got audiences all worked up. Michael Starobin, Mark Hummel, Michael Gibson and Daniel Troob have fine-tuned the show’s original orchestrations with discretion and taste. Tony Walton (sets), William Ivey Long (costumes) and Paul Gallo (lighting) made this Technicolor Runyonland the gaudiest thus far – just right for a musical fable of Broadway. The astonishing impact of Guys And Dolls has been heralded in a ten-page essay in New York Magazine, a feature article in Time and a follow-up by the New York Times saying that this most-expensive-ever revival cures the city’s woes, galvanizing the Broadway scene and taking New York by storm. – Robert Sandia

Credits

Nicely-Nicely Johnson: Walter Bobbie Benny Southstreet: J.K. Simmons Rusty Charlie: Timothy Shew Sarah Brown: Josie de Guzman Arvide Abernathy: John Carpenter Agatha: Eleanor Glockner Calvin: Leslie Feagan Martha: Victoria Clark Harry the Horse: Ernie Sabella Lt. Brannigan: Steve Ryan Nathan Detroit: Nathan Lane Angie the Ox: Michael Goz Miss Adelaide: Faith Prince Sky Masterson: Peter Gallagher Joey Biltmore: Michael Goz Hot Box MC: Stan Page Mimi: Denise Faye General Matilda B. Cartwright: Ruth Williamson Big Jule: Herschel Sporber Drunk: Robert Michael Baker Waiter: Kenneth Kantor Guys: Larry Cohn, Gary Chryst, Lloyd Culbreath, R.F. Daley, Randy André Davis, Cory English, Mark Esposito, Leslie Feagan, Carlos Lopez, John Macinnis, Steven Sofia, Scott Wise Dolls: Tina Marie DeLeone, Denise Faye, JoAnn M. Hunter, Nancy Lemenager, Greta Martin, Susan Misner, Pascale Faye