BWW Previews: GUYS AND DOLLS at Urbandale Community Theatre
For the past two decades, Urbandale Community Theatre has been entertaining the local community with an annual summer musical theatre production. The tradition continues this year with a new production of Guys and Dolls running July 21 - 30, 2017. Guys and Dolls, the 1950 Frank Loesser production that has been a staple of American musical theatre since its debut, also continues Urbandale Community Theatre's tradition of utilizing a volunteer cast, crew, and orchestra in combination with a professional production team to create a polished theatrical experience that reaches all areas of the Urbandale community.
This year, Micheal Davenport returns to direct Guys and Dolls after leading last year's production of Disney's Beauty and The Beast. Also returning to work with Davenport are Musical Director Renée J. Davenport, Choreographer Lorainna Nedved, Conductor Carl Johnson, and Technical Director/Costume Designer Rick Manion. Believe it or not, the production team has been working hard since Beauty and The Beast closed last August in order to transform Urbandale Community Theatre into an innovative theatrical organization that engages a community beyond Urbandale. Last year's production, which was nominated for three Cloris Awards, put Urbandale Community Theatre on the map in the Des Moines theatre scene while bringing in a whole new audience. In the midst of tech week, I caught up with Davenport to discuss how this production of Guys and Dolls will continue to take Urbandale Community Theatre into a new era.
Davenport first states that directing Guys and Dolls has been an enjoyable change from Beauty and the Beast, as he has found more freedom to choose how the show works and looks. "There is an expectation with Beauty and The Beast that Belle has to have the gold dress...With Guys and Dolls, I have been able to put my own artistic stamp on it, but I do not have to stay true to the original production." Davenport has decided to look at the classic with a realistic lens to make the show a little grittier instead of focusing on the vaudeville and over the top qualities other productions highlight. This can be seen in the portrayal of the high stakes gambling events that unfold throughout the show, as well as the scenic design by Nicholas Amundson, which includes elements of the gritty New York City Streets including brick sewers and a large public transportation map. That's not to say that the production is entirely intense, as the scenic design includes bright colors and clever placement of post-card looking signs and the many comedic elements of the show soared during the technical rehearsal I watched.
Working with the same artistic team has been another highlight for Davenport, who mentions that every member of the artistic team tackled Guys and Dolls in a similar spirit of Beauty and The Beast while utilizing their talents to make the production fresh. Davenport mentioned that the audience should look out for the Hotbox Girls choreography by Nedved and the vocal direction on "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat." Other high moments of the show include the full orchestra, conducted by Johnson, positioned behind the actors and the huge talents of the 34-member cast. All of these elements together create a professional and impactful experience that can sometimes be lacking in community theatre.
While several cast members are returning to Urbandale Community Theatre from previous years, including Dani Boal as Sarah who received a Cloris Award last year for her take on Belle, many actors are making their debuts with Urbandale Community Theatre this summer including several leads. Davenport mentioned that having metro-wide actor involvement has brought new talent to the Urbandale stage for Guys and Dolls, including actor Greg Millar as the scene-stealing Nicely-Nicely Johnson who is a Guys and Dolls expert after performing in and directing the show several times. Davenport wishes Urbandale Community Theatre will continue to bring in new talent from all over the metro for many years to come.
This idea of "many years to come" was the final topic Davenport and I discuss, as Urbandale Community Theatre has slowly increased the scale of its productions after an almost two year hiatus around 2012. Now operating as its own entity away from the Urbandale School District, Urbandale Community Theatre is about to experience some change in the next year. Davenport comments, "Last year, due to a team effort, we challenged ourselves and we set a higher standard for ourselves...and I think we rose to the challenge thanks to all the lessons and experience everyone had from the past." Davenport sees this production of Guys and Dolls as achieving the same high standards and proposing a question for Urbandale Community Theatre: what comes next? "I see Urbandale Community Theatre, after this production, regrouping and deciding we have hopefully knocked out two killer shows back to back. What are the reasons why that happened? How do we replicate that? And do we have a mission?" Davenport closed with a proposition that Urbandale Community Theatre may soon encompass a whole new part of the Des Moines metro if this growth continues.
Guys and Dolls
Urbandale Community Theatre
Friday, July 21 - 7:30pm
Saturday, July 22 - 7:30pm
Sunday, July 23 - 2pm
Friday, July 28 - 7:30pm
Saturday, July 29 - 7:30pm
Sunday, July 30 - 2pm
More information and tickets available at urbandaletheatre.com