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PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory Tackles “Guys & Dolls” with a Talented Teenaged Cast

PlayMakers Repertory Company's Summer Youth Conservatory will stage "Guys & Dolls" on July 15-19 and 24-25 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Dramatic Art

PlayMakers Repertory Company’s Summer Youth Conservatory will stage “Guys & Dolls” on July 15-19 and 24-25 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art

A talented teenaged cast from the PlayMakers Repertory Company Summer Youth Conservatory will tackle Guys & Dolls, under the direction of PlayMakers Rep associate artistic director Jeffrey Meanza, on July 15-19, 24, and 25 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art.

This “Musical Fable of Broadway,” which debuted on the Great White Way on Nov. 24, 1950 and racked up 1,200 performances before closing on Nov. 28, 1953, features a solid-gold score, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (1910-69), plus a lively book by Abe Burrows (1910-85) and Jo Swerling (1897-1964), based on a 1933 short story by New York newspaperman Damon Runyon (1880-1946) entitled “The Idyll of Sarah Brown.”

The show — which won five 1951 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical and Best Director (George S. Kaufman) — added “Fugue for Tinhorns,” “The Oldest Established (Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York),” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Adelaide’s Lament,” “My Time of Day,” “Take Back Your Mink,” “Luck Be a Lady,” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and to the show-tune repertoire.

“I first encountered Guys & Dolls while growing up in California,” says director Jeffrey Meanza. “I worked on a summer production and instantly fell in love with the music and fantastic story.”

He adds, “I love the source material of the Damon Runyon stories. They are great chronicles of New York life in the 1930s. One of the things that I was interested in tackling by directing this show is exploring the musical within the context of the 1930s.”

Meanza says, “Guys & Dolls follows the lives of two couples in New York. Nathan Detroit (Ethan Fox) and his intended, Miss Adelaide (Ainsley Seiger), have been engaged for 14 years. Nathan runs a floating crap game around the streets of New York and is always on the hunt for the next available spot. Adelaide is a performer at a mob-run night club called The Hot Box — she is exhausted waiting for Nathan to finally schedule their wedding, and has grown exceedingly fed up with his constant gambling (and promising to quit).”

“Sarah Brown (Maya Ison) is a sergeant with the Save-A-Soul Mission and works tirelessly to bring the Good Word to the sinners of New York,” says Meanza. “On a bet from Nathan, legendary gambler Sky Masterson (Gideon Chickos) attempts to convince Sarah to join him for an intimate dinner for two … in Havana, Cuba. Sarah must wrestle with her convictions of faith and decide whether or not she will use the very sin she’s trying to rid from the streets of her city in order to save the mission and the good work she loves so much.”

In addition to the actors and actresses named above, the show’s cast includes Ryan Widd as gambler Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Tra Duncan as menacing Chicago gangster and legendary bad loser Big Jule, Jack Carmichael as police Lt. Brannigan, Thomas Cassidy as Sarah’s grandfather and co-worker at the mission Arvide Abernathy, Colin Kless as gambler Benny Southwest, and Bellamy Harden as Save-a-Soul mission leader General Matilda B. Cartwright. Other gamblers also include Daniel Johnson as Rusty Charlie, Dean Kivotidis as Harry the Horse, Tyler Kless as Angie the Ox, Joshua Rubenstein as Manny the Moose, and Jean Christian Barry as Scranton Slim — and Daniel Johnson plays garage owner Joey Biltmore, who charges Nathan an arm and a leg to hold his crap games there.

The other Hot Box girls, besides Miss Adelaide, include Anna Crosby, Ariel Dale, Sadie Frank, Jackie Helgans, Addison Thompson, and Lili Whittier; and Zachary Nammack Weiss plays the nightclub’s Master of Ceremonies. The Save-A-Soul Mission team includes Ellie Dusek, Michelle Everette, and Myles Spencer; and the Ensemble includes Andrew Bonomolo, Trinity Casimir, Michael Combs, and Simone Walkowe.

In addition to director Jeffrey Meanza, who has managed PRC’s Summer Youth Conservatory program since it began in 2007, the PlayMakers Rep creative team for Guys & Dolls includes choreographer/assistant director Matthew Steffens, music director Mark Lewis, assistant music director Jesse Kapsha, production manager Michael Rolleri, technical directors Laura Pates and Adam Maxfield, scenic designer Robin Vest, lighting designer/master electrician Dominic Abbenante, costume designer Jade Bettin, sound designer Ryan Gastelum, and stage manager Sarah Smiley. The Guys & Dolls Band includes conductor Mark Lewis (piano), Jesse Kapsha (keyboard), Evan Atherton (trumpet), Dale Baker (percussion), Rebecca Clemens (bass/trombone), and Steve Rose (saxophone).

“The scale of this show is gigantic,” claims director Jeffrey Meanza. “We have to capture the dynamic energy of New York, as well as the intimacy of the two love stories, all in one space.”

He adds that the show’s set is “inspired by the period …. [It] takes the central visual metaphor of a New York subway car as the centerpiece of its landscape. There is a collage of signage from 1930s New York that lives throughout the space, punctuated with light bulbs and neon.”

Meanza says that the show’s “costumes are richly period and inspired by photographs from the 1930s” and its lighting will be “evocative of the darkly glamorous world of 1930s Broadway[. It] will use bulb signage, neon, haze, and fog to provide a noir-ish quality to the scenes. In stark contrast, the bright, vibrant world of Havana will be saturated with color and energy.”

When asked whether directing high school-aged actors presents any additional challenges for him, director Jeffrey Meanza replies, “Quite the opposite. Working with high-school students is a great joy. They are extremely game and excited to explore this show. It makes it an absolute pleasure to be in the rehearsal hall with them.”

Meanza invites Triangle theatergoers of all ages to “Come to [the Paul Green Theatre to] experience Guys & Dolls like you’ve likely never seen it before. We’ll have all the great songs and show-stopping numbers of the dazzling, iconic musical; but the characters will live and breathe as Damon Runyon created them. It’s the perfect summer musical that can be enjoyed by the entire family.”

SECOND OPINION: June 20th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview: (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).

The PlayMakers Repertory Company Summer Youth Conservatory presents GUYS & DOLLS at 7:30 p.m. July 15-18, 2 p.m. July 19, and 7:30 p.m. July 24 and 25 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

TICKETS: $15 ($10 for students 18 and under).

BOX OFFICE: 919-962-7529 or

SHOW: and



PRC BLOG (Page to Stage):




“The Idyll of Sarah Brown” (1933 short story): (Wikipedia).

Damon Runyon (author and journalist, 1880-1946): (Internet Broadway Database) and (Wikipedia).

Guys & Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway (1950 Broadway and 1953 West End musical): (official website for the current London production), (Music Theatre International), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Study Guide: (Music Theatre International).

Frank Loesser (composer and lyricist, 1910-69): (official website), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Jo Swerling (librettist, 1897-1964): (Internet Broadway Database) and (Wikipedia).

Abe Burrows (librettist, 1910-85): (Masterworks Broadway), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Jeffrey Meanza (director and associate artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company): (PlayMakers Rep bio) and (Internet Movie Database).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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