On Friday night, 34 actors and dancers take to the stage as Eight O'Clock Theatre begins its three-week run of Guys and Dolls. As the Tonne Playhouse is transformed into 1950s Broadway, expect to see tinhorn gamblers running amuck as their gals from the Hot Box dance club shake their stuff. And for those of you seeing the 59-year-old show for the first time, you can also expect a slight detour to Havana, where Sister Sarah of Save-A-Soul Mission will be swooned by a rascally game picker. Except for the 2006 production of Beauty and the Beast, this is the largest cast ever for the 27-year-old community theater group, according to Betsy Byrd, business manager for the organization. "Another fact I've realized is that there are two numbers where we don't have one single woman on stage (Crap Shooter's Dance and Luck be a Lady)," she said. "It's so much fun to see so many men dancing and singing on stage at one time like that.''
Guys and Dolls first opened in New York in November of 1950 and had an original run of 1,200 performances. If you've never heard Frank Loesser's classic ditties including Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat, Luck Be a Lady or Adelaide's Lament, now's your chance.
The story involves Sky Masterson (Trey Ryan) and his friend Nathan Detroit (James Grenelle). Nathan, the organizer of the oldest floating craps game in New York, needs $1,000 to rent a place for a big game. He bets Sky that he can't get an overnight date with Sister Sarah Brown (Amy Ludkiewicz) of the Save-A-Soul Mission. Meanwhile, Nathan also has his hands full with his fiancee of 14 years, Adelaide (Christina Capehart).
Tickets for shows are selling briskly, according to Donna Seaman, the Largo Cultural Center's box office supervisor. As of Monday afternoon, fewer than 65 tickets remained for opening night, and the Sunday matinees are quickly heading for sell outs, she said.
"I think it's a combination of things," she said. "Not only are we at the height of snowbird season, but people know that they'll see a high quality Eight O'Clock musical with a full orchestra.''
Another factor in heavy ticket sales is the draw of Rocco Morabito as director and Ronnie DeMarco as choreographer. Guys and Dolls marks the fourth Eight O'Clock production for the team.
They do more than draw theatergoers: the duo also attracts several performers, according to Grenelle, who also served as choreographer for Eight O'Clock's production of The Pajama Game.
"Ronnie's choreography is always out of the box, and what I love about Rocco is that he spends a lot of time one-on-one with the actors. They are able to draw a certain kind of performer. We all know they're on a scale of a professional production to be proud of.''
Piper Castillo is reachable at [email protected]