‘Guys and Dolls’ gives high-rolling performance

KJ Hall

The sounds of trumpets, violins and clarinets filled the auditorium in Van Meter Hall as the orchestra tuned in preparation for a long night. The audience hushed as the lights dimmed in the house at eight minutes past 8 p.m. After a moment of complete silence, a quick, consecutive beat on a drum cut through the darkness and an exciting melody soon followed as the orchestra began to play the “Guys and Dolls” overture.

The lights on the stage brightened, and within the next few minutes, tourists saw Broadway for the first time. Gamblers read the paper and plotted the next night’s games. Movie stars were swarmed and photographed. A day in the life on Broadway: this classic opening, entitled “Runyonland,” set the scene for the Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls,” which is based on the short stories of Damon Runyan.

The show follows the stories of several characters who live near Broadway in the mid-1900s, from gamblers to show girls to missionaries, and how their lives change and intertwine.

After four months of work and countless rehearsals, WKU students in the departments of music and theatre and dance finally got to perform “Guys and Dolls” this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“You need an audience reaction for this kind of show, a musical comedy,”  Crescent Springs sophomore Aaron Schilling said. Schilling played Nathan Detroit, a man conflicted between gambling and love.

The story follows Detroit as he continues to run the floating “crap game” much to the dismay of his love interest Miss Adelaide. Adelaide, a show girl star trying to convince Detroit to marry her after 14 years of engagement, was played by Jasper, Indiana, junior Shalyn Grow.

Junior Justin Miller of Owensboro played high roller Sky Masterson, who falls in love with mission sergeant Sarah Brown, played by Florence senior Abigail Kohake, after visiting her in the “Save-A-Soul Mission” and taking her to Havana on a bet.

The show goes on to depict how far guys, especially Detroit and Masterson, will go for their dolls.

One of the classic hit numbers in “Guys and Dolls” was performed by Florence sophomore Colin Waters as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and the ensemble. After losing a bet to Masterson, a whole slew of gamblers have to go to a prayer meeting at the mission. Johnson shares his “testimony” in song, and the exciting and energetic “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” certainly went over as a crowd pleaser.

“Colin hit it out of the ballpark every night with ‘Rockin’ the Boat’ and always made me laugh when he did the song,” stage manager and Hendersonville, Tennessee, senior Racheal Luther said.

As a stage manager for “Guys and Dolls,” Luther made sure rehearsals started on time and ran smoothly and created schedules for the whole duration of the show. Her major job was to keep constant communication between the designers and the directors and to give updates on the rehearsal process, she said.

While working behind the scenes, Luther was excited for the show to be performed for an audience. She said she loves when people laugh at the things she has grown accustomed to.

Beaver Dam junior Taylor Hillard  went to see a friend in the show on Sunday and loved every aspect of the performance. Hillard had never seen “Guys and Dolls” before, so she didn’t know what to expect.

Hillard was also very impressed that the performers were not only her age but also students balancing schoolwork and jobs at the same time they were perfecting this performance.

“You could tell that these students really loved what they were doing,” Hillard said. “That’s what I love about WKU; we have so many opportunities to enhance our college experience by investing in the things we love to do.”

The show concluded with a mimic of the opening “Runyonland” scene and Detroit and Adelaide getting married at last along with Masterson and Brown. The cast then sang the song “Guys and Dolls” and bowed for a final time to close the show on Sunday evening.

“It’s always bittersweet when a show closes,” Schilling said. “It’s nice that I’m going to have time after this, but it’s sad still because I enjoyed it so much.”

This was Luther’s last big show while at WKU, a bittersweet experience to only have three performances after so much hard work, but she was proud of the final product.

“‘Guys and Dolls’ turned out amazing with awesome designers, hardworking actors and amazing crew members all tied in with a pretty great orchestra,” Luther said. “It was awesome to see people enjoy the show and love it just as much as I did.”