When Sky Masterson (Keith Boratko) takes on a $1,000 bet that he can convince Save-a-Soul Missionary Sgt. Sarah Brown (Anna Gibbs) to accompany him to Cuba in Guys and Dolls, he had no idea that his gambling would bring him and his gangster buddies to do some soul-searching.
“You can almost bet certain kinds of dolls wouldn’t go for certain types of guys,” Nathan Detroit (Michael Nicolia) says toward the beginning of production of the Broadway hit, which opens this weekend.
Returning to the stage after playing Riff in the all-boy private school's production of last year, senior Boratko, of Canton, gets to portray a character that’s in a different kind of gang than the Jets.
“Last year was more of a rough-and-tumble kind of kid, but now I can be more suave and put together, which is different, but fun,” Boratko said.
Marlon Brando played Sky in the 1955 film version, but Boratko couldn’t help but think about the Rat Pack when acting. Frank Sinatra, who is Detroit in the movie, went on to record Loesser’s “Luck Be a Lady” on his album Sinatra '65, which Boratko sings as Sky. Bryan Zaros, Avon Old Farms music director, said that style of music was something he had the actors focus on.
“It oozes charm and a real neat essence,” Zaros said, who conducted the pit orchestra, comprised mostly of undergraduate and graduate students from the Hartt School of Music.
Gibbs, who is a home-schooled senior and part-time student at The Master’s School, a pre-school to 12th grade co-ed Christian day school in Simsbury, was scouted by the play’s choreographer Rebekah Hawkinson, who also does choreography at Master’s and in Farmington. Robinson said she was looking for a strong soprano to play the part.
“She’s in some ways like me,” Gibbs said of her character, Sarah, who struggles to help “sinners” see the light. “I try to show it in my face the conflict and, as Gayle always says, try to make sure you have layers.”
The depth of the actors and cast emulate the complexity of humans and love.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Gibbs said. “Anyone can fall for anyone and it’s not always what you expect. You can find love in the most unexpected ways.”
Initially, the mission sergeant goes unheard, but it is her that makes the gamblers recognize their own goodness, particularly Sky.
“She awakens something in him,” Boratko said.
Throughout the play Detroit covertly organizes the “oldest established permanent floating craps game in New York,” according to the program. Meanwhile he tries to fend off the marriage pleas of his girlfriend, Adelaide (Kaitlyn Kabbash), who wants to rid him of his gambling habits.
Influenced by his favorite actor, Nathan Lane, who played Detroit in the Broadway revival of the show in 1992, Nicolia’s comedic timing as Detroit is his strongpoint. During Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, Nicolia accidentally left his dice backstage, but managed to work it into the scene as he shouted ad lib lines off-stage while searching for the props. While this unplanned sketch might not make it into this weekend’s shows, Nicolia will keep the audience on its toes.
“He’s done stand-up comedy in New York and he did it here in the fall,” Director Gayle Robinson said. “There was a real stand-up comedian scheduled who got stuck in traffic. So, he’s on the stage and was only supposed to do five minutes or 10 minutes of a warm-up and the guy gets stuck in traffic. He stands up here and does 20-30 minutes of stand-up. He’s hilarious. He’s naturally very quick and finds a way to get people laughing.”
Nicolia, a senior from Long Island, said he also thinks about the “attitude of his father” when playing Detroit, emulating the way he walks and talks. He said he could also relate Detroit to himself.
“Nathan has a mustache and they won’t let me grow mine at school, but I can see certain types of attitudes that I’m trying to get things done,” Nicolia said. “With my friends, I have that same type of attitude.”
You can’t help but sympathize with Kabbash’s Adelaide, as she, an innocent, hopeless romantic, tries become the bride she has worked up in her imagination. She combats Detroit’s conflicted attitude that marriage is the end as he tries to maintain his cool cat persona in front of the guys when talking about dolls. Kabbash, one of many Miss Porter’s School actresses in the play, has her shining moment when her character is most vulnerable, singing about how “a person can develop a cold” from love in “Adelaide’s Lament.”
The dance numbers were powerful, seemingly professional at times. Hawkinson, who also did the choreography for West Side Story, said that the cast ranged from beginners to experienced dancers.
“I wanted to stay somewhat true to the original choreography and put my own flair on it,” Hawkinson said. “I think because I know a lot of the kids I worked with last year, I tried to give them each a little something. I got to know them better this year. I tried to tailor different parts to different characters.”
Senior Harrison Wasserbauer, of Canton, who was Diesel in West Side Story, plays one of Detroit’s right hand men, Benny Southwest. While there is a lot of deception in Guys and Dolls, Wasserbauer said that the play is ultimately about truth.
“The theme is don’t lie. Don’t lie to your doll, in a sense,” Wasserbauer said.
The public is invited to attend Thursday night’s dress rehearsal and the Saturday show, both at 7 p.m. in Adams Theater on the Avon Old Farms campus. Admission is free.
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