Sky Masterson, Nathan Detroit, Nicely Nicely Johnson and Harry the Horse — some of Damon Runyon's larger-than-life characters — will burst upon the stage, next week, in Rocky Run Middle School's production of "Guys and Dolls."
A cast of 46 and crew of 18 will present this colorful musical, Thursday-Sunday, April 7-10, in the school theater. Performances April 7, 8 and 9 are at 7:30 p.m., and April 10 will be a 3 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $6 and may be ordered in advance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I think the community will be astounded by the talents of their children — they're way beyond middle-school level," said theater director Valerie Karasek. "They'll be so proud of them. I had very high expectations and they've exceeded them."
The play takes place in 1949 New York and is based on a Runyon short story so, said Karasek, "It's like taking a slice of history and singing and dancing about it. And the audience will love the kids' enthusiasm."
Gambler Nathan Detroit bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson that Masterson won't be able to get a date with Sarah — who's really reserved and works at a Christian mission. Meanwhile, Detroit's reluctant to marry his longtime fiance, Adelaide, and the two love stories play out against a backdrop of famous Broadway songs, including the title number, "Guys and Dolls."
Portraying Adelaide is seventh-grader Courtney Cherico, 13. "She's a ditzy girl who wants to marry her fiance who she's been engaged to for 14 years," she said. "She's happy and bubbly and you can have fun with her character."
Toughest, she said, is trying to act like she's known the boy who plays Nathan for a long time, "when I've actually just met him in December." But she loves all the singing and dancing.
Eighth-grader Paul Lorenzi, 14, plays Detroit. "He's tied up between Adelaide and a crap game," said Paul. "He doesn't want to commit in a relationship, but he's always there to set up the game for the guys."
Paul said Karasek matched up the students' personalities with those of the characters, and that's one of the production's many strengths. "Nathan's always trying to get himself out of situations and, in real life, so am I," he said.
HE SAID his role is "like being two characters in one. I'm acting one way with the guys, and another way with Adelaide." But Paul's pleased that, while acting as Nathan, I can give it everything I have."
He especially likes the song, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," because of its harmony and the choreography by parent Yvone Henry. He said the audience will notice "how professional" the show is. Explained Paul: "Ms. K. always tells us to act that way so people will forget they're in a middle school."
Seventh-grader Rajni Rao plays Sarah. "Inside, she likes to have fun," said Rao. "But because of her mission surroundings, she's conservative on the outside and hasn't let herself go." At first, said Rajni, Sarah doesn't trust Sky, so they tell themselves in a song called "I'll Know" what their dream person will be like.
"They tease each other, but then Sky realizes he loves her," said Rajni. "He kisses her, but she's afraid of her true emotions, so she slaps him. But later, he wins her over and she realizes they can be together despite their differences."
When Sarah and Adelaide sing "Marry the Man Today," said Rajni, "They figure they'll go ahead and marry them [as they are] and change them later." Rajni's enjoying the whole atmosphere of being onstage because "we've become such a tight-knit group." And she likes her role because "you're basically playing two different people at the same time." As for the audience, she says people will love the show because "everyone likes a good comedy, good music, romance and action, so it'll satisfy everyone, young and old."
Playing Sky Masterson is eighth-grader John Leverett, 13. "He's the best gambler and has gotten incredibly rich off of it — he's the epitome of high rollers," said John. "The character has a very powerful presence; when he walks into the room, everything else stops."
John says he's fun to play and "I'm like him in that we're both witty, but I sometimes goof up. He's like I'd be, if I was at my best 100 percent of the time." Calling Sky the "James Bond of Broadway," John said his character is charming, gets beautiful women to fall for him and fits in perfectly because things always go his way.
"HE'S USED to having brief relationships with shallow women and, initially, all Sarah means to him is a thousand-dollar bet," explained John. "But then he ends up falling in love with her." He said Sky's "basically every good quality I have — squared — plus a few extras." And his favorite song is "Luck Be a Lady" because "it's jazzy and is easy to play around with."
Seventh-grader Alec Rezanka portrays gambler Harry the Horse, so named because he likes to bet on horses. "He has his own code of honor and plays by his own rules," said Alec. "And he won't let anyone welsh on their [debt]."
He's pretty fun to play, said Alec. "He gets to scare the snot out of people, once in awhile," he said. "He gets to act however he wants and nobody can mess with him because he's not afraid."
Frank DeBenedictis, almost 14, plays Big Julie. "The New York gamblers are more refined — they don't fight," he said. "But I'm from Chicago and I fight — I'm one of the mean gangster bosses." And Frank's enjoying the part.
"Because I'm kind of feared, I have to make a lot of [threatening] gestures and get in people's faces," he said. But what he doesn't like, said Frank, is the brown wool sportcoat and plaid pants he has to wear for the role: "It's heavy and itchy and looks like somebody's old sofa."
Playing gambler Nicely Nicely Johnson is Mickey Ephrath, 14. "Whenever anybody asks how I'm doing, I say, 'Nicely, nicely,'" he explained. Johnson and fellow gambler Benny Southstreet are always joking and upbeat and, in real life, said Mickey, "I'm known as the joker within my group."
BENNY'S portrayed by eighth-grader Michael Poandl. "It's not a big role, but I get to sing a few songs and am in quite a few scenes," said Michael. "My favorite song is 'Guys and Dolls' because it's a good tempo and shows a lot of the gamblers' characters."
Dressed in khaki trenchcoat and black fedora, seventh-grader Kyle Moriarty plays police Lt. Brannigan. "He's always trying to arrest Nathan and his cronies," said Kyle. "I get to use a New York accent and boss everyone else around."
Jessica Mullins, 13, is assistant director/stage manager. She writes down the scene blocking (stage directions) and is in charge of the sound and stage crews. She'll also cue the lights and actors. "I love everything about it," she said. "You're not just in charge of yourself because, if you miss a cue, stuff could get messed up."
Jessica says "Guys and Dolls" will be great: "There's lots of upbeat music and it's a fun era to do." Being part of the show, she said, "You make new friends and you're like a family." Added Karasek: "No actor will take a solo bow — they're a real ensemble."