Luck be a Lady Tonight
By Kernan Andrews
NATHAN DETROIT has a problem. He needs money. He has a floating crap game, where players make wagers on the outcome on rolling dice. The game is illegal and only one venue in New York will hold it.
Problem is, the owner of that venue, the Biltmore Hotel garage, wants $1,000 up front from Nathan before any gaming takes place. So in order to rustle up the money fast, he bets professional gambler Sky Masterson $1,000 on taking Sarah Brown out to dinner in Havana, Cuba. Nathan thinks he cannot lose. Sarah is a clean living Christian and Salvation Army member. She will not be interested in the likes of Sky.
This however is just the start of the adventure for Sky, Nathan, Sarah, and Nathan’s fiancé Miss Adelaide, a dancer at the Hot Box club with a perpetual cold, in Guys and Dolls, the celebrated musical by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, and Abe Burrows.
Guys and Dolls is this year’s production by the Patrician Musical Society, which runs in the Town Hall Theatre from Tuesday March 5 to Saturday 9 at 8pm. Based on the short stories of Damon Runyon, it contains such classic songs as ‘Luck Be A Lady’, while previous stage and screen productions have starred Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Bob Hoskins, and Ewan McGregor.
Performing the role of Miss Adelaide is former Rose of Tralee Róisín Egenton while former PMS chair Colm Heery plays Arvide Abernathy, Sarah’s grandfather. Over a Monday afternoon coffee, they spoke about the production and their parts.
Tell him I never want to see him again...and have him call me
Roisin first came to attention when she won the Rose of Tralee in 2000 as the New York Rose, but by her own admission she is a “pseudo-New Yorker” and is, in fact, a proud New Jerseyite.
“I lived in New York for a long time, studied violin at the Manhattan School of Music,” she says. “Although my character is from Rhode Island she has been living in New York for 14 years and is immersed in the city, so it does help that I can bring a level of authenticity to the accent as I know it well. There will be a lot of talk about ‘dancing goils’.”
However Roisin’s years in New York have rubbed off on her accent, such as in a recent, somewhat surreal experience that George Gershwin would have loved. “The last day I was ordering a sandwich and I asked for tomatoes, then stopped myself and said, ‘No, tom-ay-toes!’ Agh, where was I? Galway or New York?” she laughs.
For most of the last decade Roisin has lived in Galway and has won awards for her work in musical theatre, including the 2005 Fred Hanley Memorial Trophy for her role in the PMS’s production of Anything Goes! and in 2008, the Association of Irish Musical Societies award for Best Comedienne as Ado Annie in Kilkenny Musical Society’s production of Oklahoma!
“I love comic roles and Adelaide is a role I always wanted,” she says. “It is one of the ultimate comic roles in musical theatre. Adelaide has been going out with Nathan for 14 years and has this psychosomatic cold, so every time he talks about gambling she starts sneezing. She loves Nathan but he has commitment issues. She so wants to get wed, so she feels she has to tell her mother that she is married and has five kids.
“She is also a good counter point to Sarah who is a real ‘Holy Josephine’, but when they meet they really like each other and do the duet ‘Marry The Man Today’.”
Fortune smiles all the way
Colm Heery is a long serving member of the Patrician Musical Society, having served as both president and chair, and still sits on the society committee. He has been involved in many productions as a chorus member, and also sings with the Galway Choral Association and in a church choir.
However the role of Arvide means taking centre stage to perform ‘More I Cannot Wish You’, the first time he will have ever sung solo.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “I am a bit nervous I admit, but you have to have that, it gives you the adrenaline for the performance. The day you don’t have that and go out and think you don’t have to work at it is the day you should worry.”
Arvide is the leader of the church mission to save the ‘lost souls’ of the gambling dens. Although a pious man, he is no puritan, and takes a far more relaxed view of human nature and needs than his up-tight grand-daughter.
“Arvide has to look out for Sarah and take care of her,” says Colm, “especially when he sees this guy, Sky Masterson, come in and try to get off with her. Yet Arvide knows Sarah is very strait-laced, and that she needs some fun. He allows some ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ and hints that he may allow Sky have his way with her as Arvide feels that she needs it!”
Follow the fold?
The famous 1955 film version, starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, is many people’s introduction to and experience of Guys and Dolls, so does the PMS production owe anything to it?
“A director has the right to adapt things as they see fit,” says Colm. “The film was made for Sinatra and Brando, and had a lot added in that was not in the original stage show. It also looks quite dated now. The director for the Patrician show, Peter Kennedy, has his own vision. He has also played the role of Sky and is playing Nathan in this one, so he knows it very well and knows what he wants to do.”
Although written in 1950 and set during the Prohibition era of 1920s America, both Roisin and Colm, feel Guys and Dolls has much to offer audiences of all ages.
“A song like ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat’ has big choreography and will be a show stopper,” says Roisin. “There is a whole range of dance styles. There is a lot of comedy but the ‘Save a Soul’ mission scenes are very sober.”
The PMS are also confident that audiences will be equally impressed by the sets, designed by Peter Kennedy and constructed in Tuam.
“The set design is big about gambling. There are a lot of dice around,” says Colm. “There will also be skyscrapers, underground sewers where the crap games take place, the mission, New York street scenes. It’s all very cleverly done as one minute it’s the mission, then the sets are turned around and it’s a bar.”
The director/choreographer is Peter Kennedy, the musical director is John Roe, and the chorus mistress is Martha O’Toole.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie