Guys and Dolls, betting on a great comeback



Sulan Rochelle (10) and Owen Keeton (12) rehearse a conversation in the musical. The emotion sparks out from Keeton during this interaction between such contrasting character types of Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson, respectively.

As the musical romantic comedy, “Guys and Dolls,” nears its opening days, May 14-16, the cast starts to feel pressure despite all of their culminated work. While some cast members consist of seniors about to make their grand departure and other actors making their debut through this musical, they are all poised to perform to the best of their abilities.

“It’s focused around a group of people who participate in a roving gambling game,” Joseph Powell, the musical director and choir director, said.

The leader of this underground Craps (a two-dice gambling game) ring is Nathan Detroit, accompanied by his worrisome wife Adelaide. Detroit and his gang approach a rare sight of man, Sky Masterson. They place Masterson, a high-class gambler, on a daring bet to score the conservative Sarah Brown and take her on a trip to Cuba. The whole story drives on a high stakes game between Detroit and Masterson while swindling many other characters into this fanatical underground world of “Guys and Dolls.”

“[The musical is] pretty common because it is really formulaic in the way it is written, almost kind of like opera,” Powell said. “A lot of modern musicals are not like that. It’s a little bit more music the whole time.”

“Guys and Dolls” revolves around gambling, conservative rebellion and romance, all major themes that gave the 1950s its charm. Even with its commonality, the musical displays complex characters joined by the adrenaline of high stakes, a difficult feat to portray for first time performers and a freshman director, Powell. He has been in theater since he was 12, but now he gets the chance to put his experience to use.

“I try to make it where the pressure is on the kids rather than on me,” Powell said. “But, I still feel pressure to give them a good experience, because we haven’t had a musical in the past two years. This is kind of the comeback for musicals in White Station.” 

Normally, White Station is committed to producing a musical annually, but due to COVID-19, it was not able to. The involved students are putting all their pride into “Guys and Dolls” as a pivot back into White Station’s artistic pride.

“It’s scary,” Austin Kennedy (12) said. “I feel less prepared than I thought I would. And I remember that that’s kind of how things roll. In theater, you’re always less prepared than you think you are.”

Kennedy has been previously involved in theater before his casting as the gambling ring leader, Nathan Detroit, in “Guys and Dolls”. The original “Blue Ghost”, written by theater teacher Brandon Lawrence earlier in 2021, provided Kennedy his first taste of theater magic, yet without much of an audience as all of the scenes are exclusively on Lawrence’s YouTube page. Then, in his tenth grade year, he was set to partake in an ensemble in “Big Fish,” but sadly the play was canceled. However, Kennedy has taken this missed opportunity as fuel for a great performance to come.

“It’s cool that we’re bringing something back before I leave [high school],” Kennedy said. “I get to be a part of a production that is so special … I’m proud of it. It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be exciting.”

With rehearsals through weekends and weekdays, the cast has put all of their effort in. Even new performers must adhere to the demands of the theater world, and dedicate all of the time they can to pull off this musical.

The cast of “Guys and Dolls” sit in practice sessions as they go over musical timing and placement on the stage. Studying these factors requires engagement, however they still keep a fun environment to bring the energy needed.

“This is my first time ever being in a musical,” Jaden Clark (11) said. “… I was just auditioning to try something new. And I just got cast as Benny.”

Clark is set to play Benny Southstreet, Nathan Detroit’s right-hand man. Both Clark and Kennedy were chosen for their roles largely because of their ability to sing in tenor. However, their and others’ natural ability has been fostered through hours of practice shared amongst the whole cast.

“We’ve worked really hard on it,” Kennedy said. “We are working hard on it. And we will be working hard on it.”