Guys and Dolls – Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA
March 8, 2016
Review by: Gabriella Bloom of Upper Dublin High School
Welcome to bustling 1920s New York City, a world as back-alley as it is seemingly transparent. Meet the Guys, the gangsters who are eager to indulge and quick to evade trouble. Watch them fall for the Dolls, the good girls who they’d gamble it all away for. Conestoga High School presents Guys and Dolls, a sincere musical about a few good lies.
Guys and Dolls tells the story of a group of gamblers living under the shadow of Prohibition-era New York, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1950 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. A notable film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine was released in 1955.
Conestoga’s polished production brought new life to this beloved story. Several notable elements of the show – the actors, the pit orchestra, the set, and the lighting – were overwhelmingly detail-oriented, while still remaining cohesive. Further, the performance showcased a strong ensemble, with memorable personalities, storylines, and character relationships of their own.
The leading actors were equally as talented in portraying their roles. Julia Scribano (Sarah Brown) and Jack D’Emilio (Sky Masterson) brought a powerful presence to the stage, and approached their character’s romance with poise. Meanwhile, Deanna Drennen (Miss Adelaide) and Max Mooney (Nathan Detroit) commanded the space with comedy and matched each other’s levels of exaggerated personality. All of the leading actors proved themselves to be exceedingly capable vocalists, and each of the couples’ duets took on a pleasant balance.
Supporting and featured actors provided a lovable addition to the stage. Namely, Nathan’s companions, including Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie, played by Bryce Bundens, Christian Godfrey, and Zack Kathol respectively, displayed intricate alliances and a clear connection between actors. A highlight of the show was “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”, a number that truly showcased Bundens’ vocal abilities and commitment to character.
Technical elements of the performance were just as refined as the show itself. A dazzling set and well-utilized lighting created the tone of the show. Perhaps the most impressive component was a smoking manhole that actors were able to enter. At times, the ensemble was difficult to hear; however, this was a minute fault when compared to other accomplishments.
In all, Conestoga put forth an admirable production, and transported audience members to a world as shabby as it is shimmering.
Review by: Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area High School
The hustle and bustle of New York might be hectic for some, but the bright lights of Times Square just might help you see something you haven’t before. Conestoga High School opened eyes to the magical wonders of theater with their musical production, Guys and Dolls.
So what happens when you have an incredible score with timeless hits, but a less desirable script? Frank Loesser, writer of the score for Guys and Dolls, knew the feeling, but after Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling were brought in, Broadway’s golden child was born. The show went on to win four Tony Awards in 1950, including Best Musical!
The energy of the entire Conestoga cast was fabulous, as each member of the ensemble told their own story. In the Overture, cast members silently acted out scenes that could take place on the New York pavement, including a street thief, a performing street couple evading the police, and a pair of local celebrities.
Julia Scribano’s portrayal of mission worker Sarah Brown was beautiful. In many of her duets, she sang upper harmonies, but rather than punch the notes like many singers might, she sang them and just let them be – soft and sweet. Her chemistry with cast mate Jack D’Emilio (Sky Masterson) was genuinely romantic. D’Emilio captured suave nuances of a professional 1920’s gambler used to making big money. His posture, smooth voice, and witty timing made him a pleasure to watch.
The vocal inflections of Max Mooney, playing the role of craps game tycoon Nathan Detroit, along with his over-dramatic energy (typically involving him throughout the show) made him an utter joy to watch! Deanna Drennen (Miss Adelaide) was his frequent scene partner and their strained relationship came across impeccably, from flailing arms, to shrill voices, to loving glances and sweet embraces. Drennen shined in her solo “Adelaide’s Lament,” in which she skillfully balanced bouts of coughing and sneezing with a convincing character voice.
Lighting techniques used throughout the show were inventive and fresh. Times Square was charming, while the anticipation of the plot line was heightened by the bright, white lights ominously protruding from the open pothole on stage left during the second Act. Multiple passageways to enter on both sides of the stage were lined with storefronts, colorful signs, and newspaper stands.
It’s no gamble to say that Conestoga High School’s production of Guys and Dolls was a “boat-rocking” success!