Bringing Normal Back With “Guys and Dolls”
After a year with very little theatre, director Allen Schwamb wanted to bring plenty of levity to the spring musical. “I was in ‘Guys and Dolls’ in high school,” he says, “and I’ve wanted my students to have the chance to be in the show for as long as I can remember. It seemed right to me to pick a show that was uplifting and upbeat.” “Guys and Dolls” is a rollicking tale of gamblers and Hotbox girls in 1950s New York City.
The cast and crew performed the show three times to a limited in-person audience and via livestream to many community members. The cast included Elizabeth Nolting (senior) as Adelaide, Sam Parker Stillman (senior) as Nathan Detroit, Ava Berutti (junior) as Sarah Brown, and Stewart Geisz (junior) as Sky Masterson.
Putting on a musical during COVID was not without its challenges. According to Mr. Schwamb, “The biggest challenge during the rehearsal process was the unexpected absences due to actors getting sick or contact tracing. Almost every speaking role had an understudy for exactly this reason, and one understudy actually got to perform as a result of how much he had to fill in!” The necessity of wearing clear masks presented a physical challenge — Elizabeth recalls that “it was hard to sing in them and hard to speak in such a way that the audience could understand. We had to over-pronounce our consonants so the audience didn’t have to work hard to follow the story. It was also hard to find a way to make the masks stay on our faces while we sang and danced.”
In the end, though, “Guys and Dolls” brought much-needed levity to a trying year. Elizabeth says, “It meant a lot to get to perform. I had so many other performances get canceled, so to have a live show with a live audience was a really special thing.” Mr. Schwamb adds, “Aside from the pleasure of seeing some wonderful performances by our actors, hearing some of the most iconic Broadway music ever written, and watching some very fun dancing, the most common feedback was ‘It feels like normal’ and ‘This is the most regular thing I’ve done in a long time.’”