Berkeley Playhouse continues its fifth season with the Tony Award-winning GUYS AND DOLLS. Jon Tracy (Berkeley Playhouse, Aurora Theatre Company, Shotgun Players, San Francisco Playhouse, Magic Theatre) helms this musical from the Golden Age of Broadway, featuring a cast of 22, and choreography by Chris Black (Berkeley Playhouse, Aurora Theatre Company). GUYS AND DOLLS plays March 21 through April 28 (Press opening: March 23) at the Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley. For tickets ($17-60) and more information, the public may visit berkeleyplayhouse.org or call 510-845-8542x351.
This oddball romantic comedy, about which Newsweek declared, "This is why Broadway was born!," finds gambler Nathan Detroit desperate for money to pay for his floating crap game. To seed his opportunity, he bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson a thousand dollars that Sky will not be able to make the next girl he sees, Save a Soul Mission do-gooder Sarah Brown, fall in love with him. While Sky eventually convinces Sarah to be his girl, Nathan fights his own battles with Adelaide, his fiancé of 14 years. Often called "the perfect musical," GUYS AND DOLLS features such bright and brassy songs as "A Bushel and a Peck" "Luck Be a Lady," and "Adelaide's Lament."
GUYS AND DOLLS premiered on Broadway in 1950; directed by renowned playwright and director George S. Kaufman, it ran for 1200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Producers Cy Feuer and Ernie Martin came up with the idea to create a musical based on the short stories "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure," written by sports columnist and short story author Damon Runyon. Frank Loesser wrote the music and lyrics, and Michael Kidd was the choreographer, but finding a book writer proved to be more difficult; the producers went through 11 writers before hiring Hollywood screenwriter Jo Sterling. Sterling's attempt, however, failed to match Feuer and Martin's vision, so they turned to radio and TV comedy writer Abe Burrows. While Burrows's script is the one used today, Sterling's contract specified that he receive coauthor credit.
GUYS AND DOLLS has received numerous revivals on Broadway, including productions in 1965, 1977, 1992, and 2009. It has won 10 Tony Awards throughout its history, including Best Musical and Best Director. In addition to Broadway and London revivals, GUYS AND DOLLS received a film adaptation in 1955 starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. GUYS AND DOLLS was selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, however, because of writer Abe Burrows's troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the nomination was vetoed and no Pulitzer for Drama was awarded that year.
"GUYS AND DOLLS is one of the greatest musicals ever created," said Berkeley Playhouse Artistic Director Elizabeth McKoy. "It is the standard by which other musicals are judged. Our audiences are in for a musical treat."
"GUYS AND DOLLS sits in my heart because it was one of the first shows I was in when I as a kid," said director Jon Tracy. "The show was in Vallejo, where I grew up, and was directed by Terry Rucker, who is in this production. It was the first musical that I appreciated for its entertainment value. Sure it has a sturdy story, but it was the sharpness of presentation that really excited me then and, actually, it is that same sense of finesse that attracts me to it now."
Continued Tracy, "Living life is a gamble worth taking; it's silly to say, but true. To really live is to risk, grow, understand, doubt, fall, and reach beyond what was handed to you. Each of the characters in GUYS AND DOLLS were created by their environments and we meet them at moments of choice, where they are faced with taking risks. This act, choice, reaches past any timeframe, culture or creed."
As an officer of the Save a Soul Mission, Sarah Brown, the lead female character in GUYS AND DOLLS, would be proud to know that Berkeley Playhouse has partnered with the Alameda County Food Bank to host a food drive during the run of GUYS AND DOLLS. Patrons who bring food donations to a performance will receive 10% off of their tickets. "Alameda County Community Food Bank serves 49,000 people each week, and our clients live in every corner of the county, including Berkeley," said Kathryn Weber, Corporate Partnership and Events Manager, Alameda County Food Bank. "The support we'll receive from Berkeley Playhouse during the run of GUYS AND DOLLS will play a critical role in our efforts to meet need during a time of year when food banks struggle to keep pace. By making a donation of healthy, non-perishable food items, guests will be playing an active role in our mission, and know that their contributions will soon be in the cupboards of a family in need right here in our community."