Theatre Department bets on ‘Guys and Dolls’
Classic musical comedy runs through Nov. 18 at Watters Theater
Christine Skorupa enjoys having the songs from “Guys and Dolls” stuck in her head at all hours of the day.
“It’s at the point that if I’m having a conversation with someone who says a line from a song, I’ll snap into rehearsal mode,” she said with a laugh.
Skorupa, who plays the big-hearted Sarah Brown, and her cast-mates will bring the classic 1950 musical comedy to the Watters Theater stage at 8 p.m. Nov. 9-10, 16-17 and 2 p.m. Nov. 18. (A special matinee for K-12 school groups will take place at 10 a.m. Nov. 16.) Tickets are $18, adults; $16, faculty/staff/alumni/seniors; and $10, students/children.
In “Guys and Dolls,” set in a Depression-era New York City, gambler Nathan Detroit (played by Greg DeCola) makes a bet with fellow high-roller Sky Masterson (played by Robert Edwards) in the hopes of funding a venue for his craps game. Sky must take a woman of Nathan’s choosing to Havana, Cuba. It’s a bet not made any easier when Nathan chooses Sarah Brown from Broadway’s Save-A-Soul Mission.
“It’s been thought of as ‘the perfect musical’ for a long time,” said Anne Brady, director of the show and theatre professor/head of acting and directing at Binghamton University. “It has wonderful characters, an excellent book, fabulous songs and amazing dances.”
The Theatre Department’s production of “Guys and Dolls” features 24 cast members and an orchestra. The show enables each person in the cast ensemble to “build a character,” Brady said.
Two of those memorable characters are Sky and Sarah. Skorupa, who starred as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” musical in fall 2017, said she can relate to Sarah’s desire to help those in need.
“She leads with her heart and cares so much about other people,” said Skorupa, a junior theatre major from Queens. “I admire that a lot. I like caring for others and putting others first. Taking that on in this role and allowing this adventure to come out is nice to explore.”
Edwards, meanwhile, is quick to emphasize Sky’s confidence and “ability to command a room when he walks in.”
“He’s the opposite of Sarah,” said Edwards, a senior theatre major from Syracuse. “I imagine him leading with his pelvis, (saying): ‘I’m here!’”
But Edwards also appreciates the evolution of the character during the show.
“When the walls are knocked down, who is he inside?” Edwards said. “The confidence is always there, but it’s not the only thing about him.”
Both Skorupa and Edwards agreed that they knew they had the chemistry for the roles after improvising a fight during the audition process.
“There’s a level of comfort,” Edwards said. “It’s more than someone having your back. They won’t let you fall regardless of the situation.”
“It starts with a spark − and you want to turn it into a fire,” Brady added. “We’re continuing to make that happen as we start to unlock the story of the (show).”
Besides chemistry development, Skorupa and Edwards are also triggering their “triple-threat” skills: singing, dancing and acting.
“(Musical theater) allows you to expand areas that might not be as strong,” Edwards said. “You are singing, acting and dancing while portraying a story that needs to be told. You find out − in a deeper way − what’s going on. Something had to happen for a character to just burst out into song and start dancing!”
Dancing has proven to be the most challenging talent for Edwards and Skorupa.
“That doesn’t mean the other two are easy!” Edwards said. “When you mix the three together, it creates a different skill than just practicing each separately. I can focus on a scene and act it, but when you add a song, I now have to focus on breathing and maintaining my intentions. And when you add dancing, it’s: ‘Oh, this three-point turn is coming up, but I have to maintain this breath − and remain inside the scene.’”
“I’m still working on (dancing),” Skorupa said. “Taking dance classes is fine, but putting it in the context of a musical is a different ballgame.”
The songs of “Guys and Dolls” are familiar to anyone who has seen the 1955 Frank Sinatra-Marlon Brando-Jean Simmons film or the numerous Broadways revivals. “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “Marry the Man Today” are among the tunes that have proven everlasting.
Edwards said he most enjoys singing “Luck Be a Lady.”
“I was in a vocal jazz class in high school and one of our assignments was to find a Frank Sinatra song. ‘Luck’ popped out to me,” recalled Edwards, snapping his fingers and starting to sing. “There are so many things you can do with it. You have freedom.”
Skorupa praised Edwards’ version of “Luck” (“I love sitting in the audience and taking it in every night.”) and chose “I’ll Know” as her favorite to perform.
“It has so much to it,” she said. “It can be a solo or a duet. It’s romantic, but it also has a fight. There is a journey within the song and it’s a fun journey to take.”
Brady predicted that “Guys and Dolls” is a journey that audiences will enjoy, as well.
“Everyone in the production is putting their hearts and souls into this,” she said. “The cast, the orchestra, the creative team, the students working on the sets and costumes, the technical staff. It takes a village − and it certainly does in this production. I think it will pay off enormously.”