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BWW Blog: Noah Plomgren of Goodspeed's GUYS & DOLLS - Welcome to Runyonland

Hey BroadwayWorld-ers! Welcome to Runyonland! My name is Noah Plomgren and I'm currently playing Benny Southstreet in Guys & Dolls at the gorgeous Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut. I will be one of your guest bloggers over the next few weeks, giving you an inside look at the beauty and madness of our little show.

Many people regard Guys and Dolls as one of the greatest musicals (if not THE greatest) of all time and I'm inclined to agree with them. The score has hit after hit of some of the best songs written for the musical theatre, some of the most interesting and wacky characters you'll ever meet, and a book so funny and well-constructed that it makes me angry. The story takes place over a 48-ish hour period in the 1950s, in and around Times Square, New York City. Fellows named Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows, and Jo Swerling created this masterpiece based on the short stories of Damon Runyon and it debuted on Broadway in the year 1950, where it was a runaway hit and ran for 1200 performances. It swept the TONY awards in 1951 and was also selected as the Pulitzer prize winner for drama that year, but because Abe Burrows was having some trouble with the House of Un-American Activities, no award was given out.

We started rehearsals here on March 10 (when it was still a freezing winter wonderland out here) at the Larry McMillian rehearsal studio just down the street from the Opera House. Fast forward to today, where I'm writing to all of you, and its 85 degrees, muggy, and I've sweat through all of my clothes not five minutes after stepping outside. One of the wonderful things about our contracts at the Goodspeed is that they are nice and LONG, so we get to experience almost every season out here.

Here is the rehearsal studio before all of our props, set pieces, cast, musicians, and chaos have invaded. Doesn't it look peaceful?

For this production, we rehearsed for about four weeks. Since Guys and Dolls is such a well-known property (I'm sure most of us have either seen a production or participated in one at some point) our brilliant cruise director Don Stephenson made it very clear on day one of rehearsal that we should treat this as if it's a brand new musical; as if Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows are in the very next room writing us new script pages as we rehearsed. Now, obviously, they weren't, but what Don (as well as our genius choreographer Alex Sanchez) were able to do is really take a fresh approach to the show and really nail the heart and soul of the piece. Guys and Dolls is incredibly funny and, done right, it can also be incredible touching.

One of the first things Don Stephenson said to us about the show was "It's gotta go FAST and its gotta be SHARP". We spent a good amount of the rehearsal period painstakingly nailing down the rhythms and cadences of the way these characters act, speak, and move. Don also happens to be the son-in-law of Frank and Jo Loesser so he was able to give us some fantastic insight into the history and creation of the piece.

Guys and Dolls is a MASSIVE undertaking, with a huge cast, and huge musical numbers, so we also spent a large portion of our time with Choreographer Alex Sanchez expertly constructing the dance and movement aspect of our show. There is no shortage of dancing in this show (there are three whole ballets alone!) One of the biggest challenges we all had to overcome during this process was the size of the stage. If you've never been to the Goodspeed Opera House, you will be shocked to find out (as I was) that the stage is about the size of an infant's thumbnail. As we were staging many parts of this monster, Don would shout to our wonderful stage manager "BRAD, I'M GOING TO NEED A BIGGER STAGE!" Thanks to the expert creative team and crew that we have you'd never know we were playing on a postage stamp. Every designer and crew member working on this show is a magician and they are all making true magic happen on that stage.

One of the other wonderful things about the length of this contract is that, as actors, we are able to let this show settle in our bodies and minds for a while. It continues to be really interesting seeing how the production grows and develops as we discover more and more about this world of Runyonland. Not to mention the perk of playing this GORGEOUS theater that sits right on the shore of the Connecticut River.

I mean, COME ON! How lucky are we that this is where we come to work every day? It makes me want to cry.

We've been playing to huge, joyous audiences for a few weeks now and will be playing for several more until June 20. We hope you can join us and come check out the sweet madness here in East Haddam, CT. Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned for next week when my fellow blogger, Jordan Grubb, and I will be bringing you the first episode of our video blog - you'll get to meet a couple of the goons that call our Runyonland home. Peace out!

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