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Berkeley Playhouse to Present GUYS & DOLLS, 3/21-4/28

Berkeley Playhouse to Present GUYS & DOLLS, 3/21-4/28

Berkeley Playhouse continues its fifth season with the Tony Award-winning GUYS AND DOLLS. Jon Tracy (Berkeley Playhouse, Aurora Theatre Company, Shotgun Players, San Francisco Playhouse, Magic Theatre) helms this musical from the Golden Age of Broadway, featuring a cast of 22, and choreography by Chris Black (Berkeley Playhouse, Aurora Theatre Company). GUYS AND DOLLS plays March 21 through April 28 (Press opening: March 23) at the Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley. For tickets ($17-60) and more information, the public may visit berkeleyplayhouse.org or call 510-845-8542x351.

This oddball romantic comedy, about which Newsweek declared, "This is why Broadway was born!," finds gambler Nathan Detroit desperate for money to pay for his floating crap game. To seed his opportunity, he bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson a thousand dollars that Sky will not be able to make the next girl he sees, Save a Soul Mission do-gooder Sarah Brown, fall in love with him. While Sky eventually convinces Sarah to be his girl, Nathan fights his own battles with Adelaide, his fiancé of 14 years. Often called "the perfect musical," GUYS AND DOLLS features such bright and brassy songs as "A Bushel and a Peck" "Luck Be a Lady," and "Adelaide's Lament."

GUYS AND DOLLS premiered on Broadway in 1950; directed by renowned playwright and director George S. Kaufman, it ran for 1200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Producers Cy Feuer and Ernie Martin came up with the idea to create a musical based on the short stories "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure," written by sports columnist and short story author Damon Runyon. Frank Loesser wrote the music and lyrics, and Michael Kidd was the choreographer, but finding a book writer proved to be more difficult; the producers went through 11 writers before hiring Hollywood screenwriter Jo Sterling. Sterling's attempt, however, failed to match Feuer and Martin's vision, so they turned to radio and TV comedy writer Abe Burrows. While Burrows's script is the one used today, Sterling's contract specified that he receive coauthor credit.

GUYS AND DOLLS has received numerous revivals on Broadway, including productions in 1965, 1977, 1992, and 2009. It has won 10 Tony Awards throughout its history, including Best Musical and Best Director. In addition to Broadway and London revivals, GUYS AND DOLLS received a film adaptation in 1955 starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. GUYS AND DOLLS was selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, however, because of writer Abe Burrows's troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the nomination was vetoed and no Pulitzer for Drama was awarded that year.

"GUYS AND DOLLS is one of the greatest musicals ever created," said Berkeley Playhouse Artistic Director Elizabeth McKoy. "It is the standard by which other musicals are judged. Our audiences are in for a musical treat."

"GUYS AND DOLLS sits in my heart because it was one of the first shows I was in when I as a kid," said director Jon Tracy. "The show was in Vallejo, where I grew up, and was directed by Terry Rucker, who is in this production. It was the first musical that I appreciated for its entertainment value. Sure it has a sturdy story, but it was the sharpness of presentation that really excited me then and, actually, it is that same sense of finesse that attracts me to it now."

Continued Tracy, "Living life is a gamble worth taking; it's silly to say, but true. To really live is to risk, grow, understand, doubt, fall, and reach beyond what was handed to you. Each of the characters in GUYS AND DOLLS were created by their environments and we meet them at moments of choice, where they are faced with taking risks. This act, choice, reaches past any timeframe, culture or creed."

As an officer of the Save a Soul Mission, Sarah Brown, the lead female character in GUYS AND DOLLS, would be proud to know that Berkeley Playhouse has partnered with the Alameda County Food Bank to host a food drive during the run of GUYS AND DOLLS. Patrons who bring food donations to a performance will receive 10% off of their tickets. "Alameda County Community Food Bank serves 49,000 people each week, and our clients live in every corner of the county, including Berkeley," said Kathryn Weber, Corporate Partnership and Events Manager, Alameda County Food Bank. "The support we'll receive from Berkeley Playhouse during the run of GUYS AND DOLLS will play a critical role in our efforts to meet need during a time of year when food banks struggle to keep pace. By making a donation of healthy, non-perishable food items, guests will be playing an active role in our mission, and know that their contributions will soon be in the cupboards of a family in need right here in our community."

Jon Tracy is a Bay Area director, playwright, designer, and educator. In addition to helming GUYS AND DOLLS, Tracy, an Associate Artist at Berkeley Playhouse, directed Pirates of Penzance, The BFG, The Wizard of Oz, and Narnia, and wrote and directed Born and Raised for the company. Additional credits include productions at Shotgun Players (The Farm, The Salt Plays Pt. 1: In the Wound, The Salt Plays Pt. 2: Of the Earth); San Francisco Playhouse (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, Bug, Slasher); Aurora Theatre Company (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity); Magic Theatre (Terminus, Any Given Day); Willows Theatre (Evil Dead: The Musical); Impact Theatre (See How We Are); Marin Theatre Company; TheatreFIRST; Sonoma County Repertory; New Conservatory Theatre; and AlterTheater Ensemble, among others. A former Artistic Associate at the Magic Theatre, Tracy is a Company Member of PlayGround, and an Affiliate Artist with Marin Shakespeare Company.

GUYS AND DOLLS features a phenomenal ensemble of professional adult actors, as well as youth actors trained in the Berkeley Playhouse Conservatory professional internship programs, including: Carmichael J. Blankenship (TheatreWorks, 42nd Street Moon, American Musical Theatre of San Jose, Foothill Music Theatre) as Sky Masterson; Angel Burgess (San Francisco Playhouse, New Conservatory Theatre, Loraine Hansberry Theatre, Broadway By the Bay) as Sarah Brown; Michael Scott Wells (Broadway By the Bay, Diablo Theatre Company, Willows Theatre) as Nathan Detroit; Sarah Mitchell (Shotgun Players, Cutting Ball Theater, San Francisco Playhouse, Seussical: The Musical at Berkeley Playhouse) as Adelaide; Terry Rucker (Pirates of Penzance, Born and Raised, Narnia at Berkeley Playhouse) as Big Jule; Joshua Castro (Mountain Play Association) as Nicely-Nicely Johnson; Lucas Brandt (Shotgun Players, Boxcar Theatre, The Sound of Music at Berkeley Playhouse) as Angie the Ox; Gregory Sottolano (Diablo Theatre Company, Ray of Light Theatre Company, Woodminster Summer Musicals ) as Benny Southstreet; Matthew McCoy (Atlantic Stage, Weathervane Playhouse) as Harry the Horse; Aejay Mitchell (Inferno Theatre, Ragged Wing Ensemble) as Rusty Charlie; and Mary Gibboney (Shotgun Players, Broadway By the Bay, Narnia, Cinderella, Oliver at Berkeley Playhouse) as General Matilda Cartwright.

Rounding out the cast are Maytal Bach, Eli Clarke Nichols, Aasha Dev, and Ben Rotenberg.

Chris Black choreographs GUYS AND DOLLS. Theater credits include productions at Berkeley Playhouse (Singin' In the Rain), Aurora Theatre Company (Salomania, Salome), Shotgun Players (Beardo), and Art Street Theatre (Io - Primcess of Argos). Black is the recipient of an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Best Choreography, and was the first performing artist to be in residence at the California Academy of Sciences.

Frank Loesser (Music and Lyrics) was born in New York City in 1910. His five Broadway musicals were each a unique contribution to the art of the American musical theater: Where's Charley? (1948), GUYS AND DOLLS (1950), The Most Happy Fella (1956), Greenwillow (1960), How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (1961), and Pleasures and Palaces (1965). Long before he wrote Where's Charley?, Loesser was already known to America from the dozens of songs that had become enormous popular hits from his Hollywood career. He supplied lyrics to the music of such greats as Jule Styne, Hoagy Carmichael, Burton Lane and Arthur Schwartz, among others, penning such standards as "On a Slow Boat to China," "Two Sleepy People," "Heart and Soul," "I Don't Want to Walk Without You," "Spring Will Be a Little Late this Year," "(See What) The Boys in the Backroom (Will Have)," "They're Either Too Young or Too Old," and the 1948 Academy Award-winning "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Loesser died of lung cancer at the age of 59 in 1969, in New York City.

Jo Swerling (Book) was born in 1897 in Czarist Russia. After emigrating to New York's Lower East Side, he worked as a newspaper and magazine writer in the early 1920s, then launched a playwriting career, penning Street Cinderella, an early comedy for the Marx Brothers. He also wrote the Marx Brothers's first movie, the unreleased silent comedy Humor Risk (1921), and scored a major success with the book and lyrics for the musical revue The New Yorkers (1927) and the play The Kibitzer (1929), co-written with actor Edward G. Robinson. Swerling moved to Hollywood to work on the screenplay for Frank Capra's Ladies of Leisure (1930), the first of several collaborations with the director. His screenplays in the 1930s and 40s include Platinum Blonde (1931), Behind the Mask (1932), Love Affair (1932), Once to Every Woman (1934), Pennies from Heaven (1936), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Lifeboat (1944), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). He also provided some uncredited writing for the screenplay for Gone with the Wind (1939). Swerling returned to Broadway in 1950 to co-write the book for GUYS AND DOLLS with Abe Burrows, winning Tony and New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards for his effort. Swerling died in 1964.

Radio humorist, songwriter, television personality, playwright, and stage director Abe Burrows (Book) was born in New York in 1910. He is perhaps best remembered as one of the creators, with Frank Loesser, of two of the greatest Broadway shows in history, GUYS AND DOLLS (1950) and How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961). Burrows was ever-present on Broadway, directing Two on the Aisle, (1951), Three Wishes for Jamie (1952), Can-Can (1953), and Happy Hunting (1956), and collaborating on the scripts of Make a Wish (1951), Silk Stockings (1955), and Say, Darling (1958). He won four Tony Awards, three for authorship and one for directing. In 1962, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, now unencumbered by the House Un-American Activities Committee, was awarded to Burrows for How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying, which also earned Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Author of a Musical, and Best Direction; the New York Drama Critics also gave it their top prize. Burrows's Broadway career did not end there, he directed What Makes Sammy Run? (1964), and Cactus Flower (1965), which he both authored and directed, Forty Carats (1968), and Four on a Garden (1971), an evening of four one-act plays adapted and directed by Burrows, starring Sid Caesar, Carol Channing, and George S. Irving. Burrows died in 1985 after a long bought with Alzheimer's Disease.

Damon Runyon was born in Kansas in 1880. An American newspaperman and author, he was best known for his short stories, which evoked a distinctive social type from the Brooklyn or Midtown demimonde that grew out of the Prohibition era. He spun humorous and sentimental tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom went by "square" names, preferring instead to go by colorful monikers such as "Nathan Detroit," "Benny Southstreet," "Big Jule," "Harry the Horse," "Good Time Charley," "Dave the Dude," or "The Seldom Seen Kid." Runyon died in New York City from throat cancer in late 1946, at age 66. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered from an airplane over Broadway.

Berkeley Playhouse was founded in 2007 by Artistic Director Elizabeth McKoy, a professional theater actor, director, and teacher for over 25 years. Under the artistic guidance of McKoy, and Managing Director Lauren Hewitt, Berkeley Playhouse is a professional theater for all ages that presents a season of year-round musicals, providing children and families with unique and sophisticated musical theater experiences. In addition, Berkeley Playhouse has a music theater conservatory which offers a range of educational instruction classes in music performance skills. In 2009, Berkeley Playhouse made its permanent performance home at the historic Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley.

Following GUYS AND DOLLS, Berkeley Playhouse closes the season in July with THE WIZ, directed by Kimberly Dooley.

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