WARREN, NJ– The 2018 Spring Musical, “Guys and Dolls,” will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 22, 23, and 24, and at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 24, in the Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) Performing Arts Center.
The general public is invited to join with students, staff, parents and families at one or more of the performances, presented by the school’s Drama Department and the drama department’s Script and Crew co-curricular program. The Guys and Dolls Director is WHRHS Drama Teacher Douglas Eaton. The play’s Music Director is WHRHS Choral Music Teacher Angela DiIorio Bird. The play’s Pit Orchestra Conductor is WHRHS Instrumental Teacher Paul McCullen.
The WHRHS annual Spring Musical is an opportunity to engage hundreds of students in a variety of interdisciplinary living learning experiences, according to Eaton. They contribute as: Members of the cast, as actors, singers and dancers; the pit orchestra, as musicians; the production crew, as assistant directors, and sound and video tech supporters; and in support of various essential behind the scenes tasks, such as costuming, make-up, props, scenery production, refreshments, program production, poster and digital artwork production, media relations and media support, budgeting and other business tasks. All of these tasks are provided by students being mentored by relevant subject-matter teachers and advisors.
The Spring Musical supports one of the stated goals of the 2015-2020 Strategic Goals: “The WHRHS District will provide the resources, technology, and organizational change to achieve, among other goals: To integrate creative, innovative, and interdisciplinary learning throughout the district to empower and inspire students to succeed in a changing global community.”
Guys and Dolls features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It premiered on Broadway in 1950, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Its initial run on Broadway was for 1,200 performances, and it has been revived several times on Broadway and in London, winning Tony Awards for best supporting lead and/or supporting actors every time it has been revived on Broadway. It is a favorite of high school musical presentations.
Among the scores of actors, singers, dancers, production crew members and behind the scenes volunteers getting ready are, from left: Sophomore Scott Romankow of Gillette, who portrays the character, Nathan Detroit; Junior Kyra Anthony of Green Brook Township, who portrays the character, Miss Adelaide; Sophomore Christine Tanko of Green Brook Township, who portrays the character Miss Sarah Brown; and Sophomore Jacob Lesser of Gillette, who portrays the character Sky Masterson.
The story line of the play is influenced by "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown;" "Blood Pressure,” and “Pick The Winner,” three short stories by American journalist and short story writer Damon Runyon (1880-1946). “Guys and Dolls: The Stories of Damon Runyon,” is available at AbeBooks, at www.abebooks.com. Another book, “Guys and Dolls and Other Writings,” which includes scores of Runyon short stories, including The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, is published by Penguin Books. It has an Introduction by veteran New York Journalist Pete Hamill, which gives a fuller biography of Runyon. After reading the introduction and even a few of the stories, one can see how Runyon’s style has influenced the colloquial Depression-era gritty writing style of other notableNew York Iconic journalists, including Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, and Mike Lupika, and of story-telling American songwriters from Arlo Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen.
Ironically, in 1951, Guys and Dolls ran into the controversial 1950s Hollywood Blacklisting skittishness surrounding the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Although Guys and Dolls was initially selected as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, that honor was subsequentlywithdrawn before it was delivered because the name of Guys and Doll’s co-writer Abe Burrows (1910-1985) had been brought up by the HUAC. Later in Burrows’ career, another of the many musicals Burrows wrote, authored, or directed, “How To Succeed In Business Without Even Trying,” was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded for excellence in journalism, literary achievements and musical composition.
The HUAC blip in the history of Guys and Dolls must not have had a significant impact, since it did not stop Hollywood from making it into an iconic movie in 1955, just four years after the play premiered on Broadway. Starring in the movie was Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye. Among the most notable songs from the musical are: “A Bushel and a Peck,” later recorded most famously by Doris Day; “Luck Be A Lady,” later recorded most famously by Frank Sinatra; and the rollicking audience favorite, “Sit Down, Your Rockin' the Boat,” featuring both on Broadway and in the movie the singing and acting of actor Stubby Kaye.