As both a Broadway play and a hit movie, "Guys and Dolls" has always wowed its audience.
Chantilly High aims to do likewise with its presentation, Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 12-15, at 7 p.m., in the school auditorium. Tickets are $8; call 703-222-8182.
"I think every age will enjoy it," said drama director Shannon Khatcheressian. "It has comedy and romance and explores relationships and the New York gambling scene in 1948-50. The set, costumes and mood of the entire piece are modeled after the Dick Tracy comic strip, with really bright colors, lots of energy and elaborate dance numbers."
The leads are double-cast in this rollicking musical comprised of 36 actors and 15 crew members, and students have been rehearsing since August. "You've got to choreograph all the dances, learn the vocal parts for the songs and learn the lines for the acting," explained senior Matt Jewel, 17, who plays rough Chicago gangster Big Jule. "It's hard work."
DRAMA DIRECTOR Ed Monk designed and is helping build the sets, featuring a backdrop of New York City's skyline, plus other locations. Khatcheressian and Robinson English teacher Rebekah McKendry did the choreography, and Khatcheressian's sister-in-law Molly, a Longfellow Middle music teacher, is vocal director and pit conductor.
Five Chantilly strings students will perform with professional musicians. And since the show's so technically difficult, a professional is doing the lighting. As for the actors, director Khatcheressian says they're doing an excellent job.
"It's really dance-heavy, and the musical numbers are more complicated than we did last year," she said. "But the students are doing fabulously; they're really committed, and things are going smoothly."
Jewel likes playing a craps-shooting gangster who comes into town looking for money. "He's very cranky and evil," said Jewel. "He's loud, obnoxious and rambunctious and causes a lot of trouble." That's also why he's so much fun to play.
"He has a lot of angry outbursts, so I get to take out all my stress from school, on stage," said Jewel. "He has lots of mood swings, so my emotions are all over the place. But he's really noticeable; he has a lot of funny lines, and it's great going nuts on stage." Calling the play's characters "colorful and eccentric," he said the audience will like them and get "really involved in their lives."
Juniors Mike Deveney and Nick Napier, both 16, portray gambler Nathan Detroit, who's trying to set up a craps game. "He's not a bad guy," said Deveney. "He's trying to stop gambling because his fiancé doesn't like it, but it's hard because he's done it so long and this is his life. He's also a wise guy — always making jokes and sarcastic one-liners."
AND THOUGH he acts tough, Detroit's been engaged 14 years but is afraid of marriage. "I like it because he jokes around, but is also laid back and is a 'guy's guy' — friends with everyone, someone everybody likes," said Deveney. It's difficult learning lines, songs and dances all at the same time, but Deveney enjoys working with his friends.
Napier called Detroit a nervous character who "puts everything in his life on the line — and [both] suffers and gets rewarded," as a result. "He's caring and in love with Adelaide, but not ready for a commitment," said Napier. "But he makes a crazy bet and promises to get married. "
He said the toughest part is playing the role totally differently from Deveney. "I want to bring my own flavor to it, but still be true to what the writer wanted," explained Napier. His favorite song is "Sue Me" because it expresses Detroit's love for Adelaide and his desire to run a craps game. As for the play, he said, "It's only the second musical Chantilly's done in a long time, and I think the audience will enjoy the comedic change of pace."
Juniors Katie Anderson and Meredith Lynch play Adelaide, who dances at the gentleman's club, the Hot Box. "She's not the sharpest crayon in the box, but she's a loving person," said Anderson, 16. "She's a dumb blonde, but not a typical one. She's concerned about her boyfriend, she reads and she's into psychology. She studies everything and finds herself incredibly intelligent."
Anderson likes the role because "it's fun to be something you're not, and she's such a big character. Everything's much more exaggerated than it would be in normal life. For example, if she sneezes, her whole body moves." Anderson's favorite number is the humorous, "Take Back Your Mink," and her goal is to make the audience forget she's acting and believe she really is Adelaide.
Lynch, 15, calls Adelaide "quirky, caring, forgiving and a very patient" person. "She's completely head-over-heels for Nathan," said Lynch. "She gets lots of offers from guys to be their trophy, but she and Nathan are each other's best friend. I love it — it's the most challenging and complex role I've ever had, and it's my absolute favorite role and character."
SHE'S PLEASED that Adelaide has so many layers, acing confident on the outside while, inside, she's just a "small-town girl whose only dream is to find the man she loves and have a family."
Lynch's favorite "Guys and Dolls" song is "Marry the Man Today," which Adelaide and Sarah sing together. "It's a hilarious, girl-power song — every woman will love it," she said. "[They] complain about men and talk about their plans to change them." She said the show's so fast-paced, the audience will be dazzled by the music, the story, the outrageous characters, colorful costumes and "amazing" sets.
Sophomore Erin Cooper, 15, and senior Monica Draine, 17, portray Sarah who runs the Save a Soul Mission. "She's a very proper girl — guys make her uncomfortable," said Cooper. "She's not very open, but her feelings show on her face." The best thing about playing her, said Cooper, is that "I absolutely love to sing, and she has so many cute songs, such as 'I'll Know,' 'If I Were a Bell' and the duet with Sky, 'I've Never Been in Love Before.'"
Draine said Sarah's been in the mission, her whole life, and doesn't really know anything outside it. "She's professional and goal-oriented and, in the song, 'I'll Know,' she describes what her dream guy would be like," said Draine. "It's demanding because it's a lead role and takes a lot of effort, [plus] she's shy and reserved, and I'm the complete opposite."
But Draine loves taking "cheap shots" at her love interest, Sky Masterson, because "he's a big time gambler and a sinner" and she wants him to change. Said Draine: "My favorite song is 'Marry the Man Today,' because Sarah and Adelaide are two different types of people, but they come together in this song."
Playing Masterson are juniors Faqir Qarghah, 17, and Jae Laroya, 16. "He's a big heartthrob — smooth, smart, suave and sophisticated," said Qarghah. "He's a really big gambler and, due to his reputation, he puts on a front. He's never let his guard down until he meets Sarah, and that's when you see his good side."
Qarghah said Masterson is great to play because "every guy wants to be him and every girl wants to be with him. Being sophisticated and over-the-top is not like me, at all. But I like his coolness; even in tough moments, he keeps calm. My favorite number is 'Luck Be a Lady' because it's very jazzy and is fun to sing and to watch. The audience will love the show because it tells a classic love story and takes you back to another time."
Laroya calls Masterson "good with the ladies and good at what he does. Guys look up to him and, being a gambler, he lives his life by chance and risk. To him, life is only as good as the fun you have. It's awesome to play this part. He has a strong presence — when he walks into a room, all eyes are on him." Since Laroya first did this role at Franklin Middle, he's excited to reprise it. "I always wanted to do it again," he said. "Finally, I get the chance."