Mounting an American Masterpiece: Guys and Dolls, the Fabulous Fable of Broadway

Guys and Dolls, in the words of our director Steven Beckler, is an “irresistible explosion of energy!” The Ogunquit Playhouse, in recreating the multi-award winning 1992 revival of this American Masterpiece, will be presenting one of the most dynamic productions ever put on a stage. The synergy between the characters, combined with the Tony® Award Winning sets designed by Tony Walton and the amazing Technicolor costumes designed by multiple Tony® Award winner, William Ivey Long, makes the Ogunquit production sizzle and brings back to life the magic that was so apparent and beloved in the Broadway Revival of ’92.

Frank Loesser’s musical comedy, Guys and Dolls, is universally recognized as one of the greatest of all Broadway musicals. Guys and Dolls came to fruition due to the fusing of Broadway composer Frank Loesser and the writing team of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows with the stories and characters created by Damon Runyon, the renowned American short-story writer and columnist. Their adaptation for Guys and Dolls was drafted from a variety of his stories, but leaned heavily on the "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown." It brought Damon Runyon's legendary world of Times Square hoodlums to endearing life and turned it into a Broadway legend.

The musical revolves around a motley crew of “eccentrics, do-gooders, gamblers, night-club entertainers and various categories of jerks,” all based on Runyon’s colorful characters. The story depicts an unlikely romance between chronic gambler, Sky Masterson and Salvation Army-type missionary girl, Sarah Brown, headquartered in Times Square. Sky, who can't refuse a wager of any kind, is bet by another gambler, Nathan Detroit, that he can't romance the straitlaced missionary. Meanwhile, Nathan is trying to set up a floating crap game while avoiding the wrath of his fiancée, a brassy chorus girl named Miss Adelaide, who is desperate to marry Nathan after a 14-year engagement.

Romance, however, is not always center-stage in Guys and Dolls; the lavish depiction of New York City life, the insight into the eccentric impulses and motivations of the dynamic characters often dominate the show. And, at the core is Frank Loesser’s gorgeous music. Loesser found Runyon’s characters ideal for his informal lyrical style, suiting each song to the character who performs it; the songs are as important as the book in depicting character and propelling plot.

This fabulous fable of Broadway opened at the 46th Street Theatre in 1950, starring Robert Alda, Isabell Bigley and Vivian Blaine and became an instant classic, winning all major awards at the 1951 Tony® ceremony. Its many successes included running 1,200 performances (the 5th longest running show on Broadway during the 1950s – the golden era for American musicals) and enjoying numerous successful revivals) all over the world, including three on Broadway (most notably the 1992 revival).

The Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to recreate this timeless classic and proud to have been awarded the American Masterpiece Grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts for the re-staging of Guys and Dolls. The Ogunquit Playhouse has a superlative heritage that includes productions of some of the most spectacular American Masterpieces on its stage since its humble beginnings 77 years ago. For this production, Executive Artistic Director, Bradford Kenney, went directly to the Tony® Award winning director of the 1992 production, Jerry Zaks, for assistance in hiring key staff for the Ogunquit production. As a result, Steven Beckler, who has been the production supervisor since the original production with Jerry Zaks, was chosen to direct and supervise Guys and Dolls for the Ogunquit stage. Over 1000 actors and actresses auditioned in New York and locally in hope of securing a part. The actors for this show, like all shows at the Ogunquit Playhouse are selected exclusively for their individual roles to ensure the best person is selected for each specific character. This production will headline stage and television veteran Richard Kind, the Tony® Award winning star of Jersey Boys, Christian Hoff, Broadway’s Liz Larsen and Glory Crampton. These world-class performers will carry on Ogunquit’s long tradition of excellence and ensure an “irresistible explosion of energy!”