The Wilton Playshop: ‘Guys & Dolls’ is a winning bet
When “Guys & Dolls” premiered on Broadway in 1950, it set the theater scene on fire, taking home a Tony Award for best musical and running for nearly four years.
Written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, it boasts an unforgettable score by Frank Loesser, with songs like “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “Marry the Man Today.”
The popular musical has been reprised several times on Broadway and in London and even spurned a 1955 movie adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.
“Guys & Dolls” will be staged by the Wilton Playshop under the direction of Lynne Colatrella, with choreography and musical staging by Lauren Nicole Sherwood and musical direction by Zachary Kampler from April 26-May 11.
The musical comedy visits the world of Manhattan in Damon Runyon’s short stories, and follows two unlikely romances — one between illegal crap game promoter Nathan Detroit and his long-suffering fiancé, Adelaide, a perky nightclub singer who seems forever inflicted with a cold; and the charismatic gambler Sky Masterson and proper missionary Sarah Brown. The latter is sparked by a bet between the two men that Sky can’t take her to Havana on a date.
Colatrella was first introduced to the musical as a child when her father played Nathan at a theater in Stamford.
“I just loved the show and loved seeing him in the role,” she said. “I did Adelaide myself in Greenwich at the Connecticut Playmakers and did it again at Curtain Call. It’s a character I loved playing and I love all the characters in the show. It’s great fun and real musical theater.”
She also directed the show previously at Westhill High School in 2002 and Sean Pultz, who played Lt. Brannigan when he was a student will reprise his role in this production as well.
“The music of this show stands the test of time. It’s the kind of songs that people always go out of the theater singing,” Colatrella said. “I think the comedy is really relevant. It still makes you laugh. It draws people back to Time Square in the ’50s when people were trying to save the souls of people who were doing something bad like gambling.”
The real-life husband-and-wife team of Joe and Jenna Colavito take on the roles of Sky and Sarah, and although the couple has done numerous productions together, this is the first time their characters are romantically linked.
“We have done eight shows together, but we’ve never played opposite each other before and that’s always been a goal for us,” Jenna said. “We started performing together in college and we’ve done shows like ‘Elf’ and ‘Les Miserables’ and it’s been a theater bucket list item to play a couple as rooted in American musicals as Sky and Sarah are.”
Joe grew up listening to a lot of Sinatra and even though the legendary singer played Nathan in the movie, he feels he should have been Sky, and he sings in his style to bring out the suaveness of Sky.
“Golden Age musical theater is definitely where both Jenna and I shine and it’s just a fun character and such a fun show,” he said. “Plus, I definitely sing better than Marlon Brando!”
Jenna, who normally plays more of an alto/belter comedic role, is looking forward to playing the straight-up heroine for the first time, and is excited about doing the soprano ingénue.
“Sarah is one of the characters that every soprano in musical theater wants to play and it’s been really fun making her my version of her,” she said. “Sarah and Sky’s relationship is very different than Joe and my natural relationship — we’re a little more lighthearted with each other, so getting to explore our actual relationship inside Sarah and Sky has been really interesting for both of us.”
The couple’s 3-year-old son has also been around for every rehearsal and will be “the littlest gambler” backstage at every performance.
Both of the Colavitos are longtime fans of “Guys and Dolls” and believe that it’s a show that practically everyone loves, and one that will attract big crowds at the theater.
“It’s such an iconic show and everyone in our cast is super-talented, and everyone will get a big kick out of it,” Jenna said. “It’s a great local theater and really fun to work with, and this is a great way for people to see such a classic show close to home.”
Duane Lanham and Dany Rousseau play Nathan and Adelaide, and the show also stars Jacob Litt as Nicely Nicely, Betty McCready as General Cartwright and Phil Pineau as Benny Southstreet.
“A lot of these actors are new to me, or I know them but never worked with them before,” Colatrella said. “I’ve spent the first couple of weeks getting to know everyone and it’s been such a great atmosphere and I’m really excited for people to see what this cast can do.”
She’s especially excited about Litt’s rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” which she noted will be a show-stopper.
One way Colatrella is trying to differentiate this production from others is by playing around with the set and costumes and offering some unique ideas for the stage.
“This is a timeless show and I think the Wilton audience loves to come in and lose themselves in an old-fashioned musical like this,” the director said. “The last time I directed at Wilton was for ‘Sweet Charity’ and I felt the same way. They come in, they enjoy it, they sing the songs and tap their feet and have a good time for a few hours.”
For more information about the show, visit wiltonplayshop.org.