BWW Interview: GUYS AND DOLLS at Theatre Baton Rouge
Theatre Baton Rouge wants local audiences to roll the dice this weekend with their spring musical production of GUYS AND DOLLS running from January 30 through February 2 as part of TBR's Young Actors Program.
The Young Actors Program was developed by TBR "to teach, create and nurture the artistic development of young actors ages seven to 18 through performance opportunities of the highest quality." Involvement in the program cultivates life-long skills and a love of theatre for future audiences. According to co-director Lily McGill, you shouldn't underestimate these young actors, who are "delivering powerful performances."
"One of the things that I love most about our main cast is that many of them are relatively new to theatre and have grown so much through the process," McGill said. "While we do have a few 'veterans' of the Young Actors Program, like Caroline Feduccia, Beau Willis and Abby Robbins, we have several new faces. These actors have responded to our direction so well and put in a lot of time to create these characters. It's a great achievement for them to perform on this stage."
This year's Young Actors Program sees a lot of newcomers to the stage but will also see actors who have been involved with the program since it was established nine years ago.
"It's really fun to see that dynamic with kids who have been with us, and a lot of talent that came in that's fresh," said co-director Jack Lampert.
Considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy, GUYS AND DOLLS ran for 1,200 performances on Broadway in 1950, and received nearly unanimous positive reviews from critics. It won a bevy of awards, including Tony Awards, Drama Desks and Oliviers.
"It's classic American theatre," Lampert said.
Lampert last directed GUYS AND DOLLS as a main stage production back in 2011 at TBR and previously for a youth group in Chicago. GUYS AND DOLLS is the second time Lampert and McGill have worked together who co-directed together last year with the Young Actors Program's production of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.
"We seem to be working really good together," Lampert said. "She's got a lot of great ideas in her head as well, so we've been collaborating a lot on the show."
According to McGill, it was a natural step for them to tackle GUYS AND DOLLS together too.
"I think Jack and I work together well because we bring different perspectives and ideas to the table, a bit of Yin and Yang, I think," McGill said. "I think our age difference alone provides for great conversations about the way we conceptualize things."
GUYS AND DOLLS follows the romantic lives of two couples as they try to figure out what they mean to each other, and who their partner really is. Gambler Nathan Detroit (Jefferson Koonce) is about to flee with his long-time girlfriend Adelaide (Emma Grace Lambert) when the opportunity to win big in a game of craps comes along. He bets Sky Masterson (Andrew Gunnels) $1,000 that he can't get the virtuous Sarah Brown (Caroline Feduccia) to go out with him. The guys must decide between their two greatest loves: gambling and their dolls.
"I think the thing that has made GUYS AND DOLLS stand the test of time is that it's a great time," McGill said. "The music, dancing, and energy have such vim-- it's hard not to smile. It's also been around for so long that it's one of those stories that multiple generations can enjoy. There's also the fact that iconic performers have left their mark on these roles--Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Peter Gallagher, Nathan Lane, the list goes on."
For their vision of GUYS AND DOLLS, Lampert focuses on adding little nuances to the show, from a fake blind pickpocket to a silent policeman while McGill gets into the meat of the scenes.
"One of my goals with this show was to really look at the relationships and gender roles as they are usually portrayed in this show," McGill said. "Because our society has evolved so much since this musical was created, I feel like we have to look at things through a fresh lens. I've been focusing on ways we can give both sides of a relationship both power and vulnerability."
"It's really fun to be taking it on in a different direction...a lot of stuff you have to do the same because that is what people expect to see in shows, but at the same time, each of the actors brings their own personality to the role, so that has been fun to watch," Lampert said.
Whether you have seen GUYS AND DOLLS a hundred times, Lampert encourages you to come out to see the talent this city's youth has to offer.
"They should come to support it and see what these young theatre people love about their art," Lampert said. "I think what makes it such an exciting show is the music is wonderful...and it really is classic Broadway."
GUYS AND DOLLS will run from January 30-February 2. Performances will be Thursday-Saturday nights (7:30 PM) and Sunday afternoons (2:00 PM) on TBR's main stage. Adult tickets are $31, Student tickets are $20, and are sale now. GUYS AND DOLLS is rated PG. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact the box office at (225) 924-6496 or visit theatrebr.org.