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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

'Guys and Dolls' is timeless fun

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Take a universal theme, add some great songs and unforgettable characters, and if you're lucky, you may come up with a timeless piece of musical theater called Guys and Dolls.

Written by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, based on the stories of Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls opens tonight for a four-day run in the Valentine Theatre, which is producing the show.

"Right now, I'm wondering why I didn't get into another line of work," said director Dale Vivirito earlier this week. Vivirito, who is the artistic director of the Valentine, was on his way to see to some costuming alterations and, he said, trying to keep track of myriad other details that go along with putting on a major production.

Guys and Dolls is the story of gamblers, showgirls, and the Save-A-Soul Mission. Due to a police crackdown, Nathan is having trouble finding a venue for his floating crap game, and some big-time sporting men are coming in from out of town, expecting to find some action.

Nathan has a line on a location, but he has to come up with a hefty rental fee, payable in advance, and he doesn't have it. So he bets his friend, Sky Masterson, that he can't score with the lovely Sarah Brown, who is more interested in ridding Broadway of sin than in romance. If Sky loses, as Nathan is sure he will, Sky will pony up the rental fee.

To add to Nathan's problems, his fianc, Miss Adelaide, the lead dancer at the Hot Box nightclub, is pressuring him to get married. After all, they have been engaged for 14 years, and a girl does have her limits.

Frank Loesser wrote the songs for the show, which include "Luck Be A Lady Tonight," "Guys and Dolls," and "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat."

Even though Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway in 1950, it rarely shows its age, and Vivirito attributes that to the source material and the theme.

"The writing is absolutely superb," he said, adding that there are few historical references and the story is so stylized that it spans the ages. He also called the plot "a timeless take on the battle of the sexes as portrayed by Sky and Sarah and Nathan and Adelaide."

The Valentine's cast is headed by Bill Lancz as Sky Masterson, Mark Tomesek as Nathan Detroit, Ashley Nowak as Sarah Brown, and Maribeth Stahl as Miss Adelaide.

Lancz played Prince Dauntless in the Valentine's 2005 production of Once Upon a Mattress and appeared in many productions at the University of Toledo, including Gypsy, The Dragon, and Once on this Island. Tomesek, a professional actor now based in Los Angeles, also has appeared in several Valentine productions, including Once Upon a Mattress and The Night Before Christmas: The Whole Story.

He also appeared in the Broadway touring productions of Ragtime and Annie. Nowak has starred in Cabaret at Bowling Green State University and Chicago at the Croswell Opera House.

An ensemble of 29 rounds out the cast and includes Cindy Bilby, Tim Keogh, Zach Lahey, Jim Latimer, Lisa Simon, John Sweney, Ernestine Weathers, and Ken Wieland.

"Guys and Dolls" opens tonight and runs through Sunday in the Valentine Theatre, 400 North Superior St. Performances are at 8 p.m. today-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $23 to $39. Information: 419-242-2787 or www.valentinetheatre.com.

Adrian's Croswell Opera House opens its summer season tomorrow with the Tony Award-winning Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The lighthearted romantic comedy is the tale of Millie Dillmount, who moves from the sleepy Midwest of 1922 to New York City in search of love and money. Millie's grand plan is to find work as a secretary to a wealthy businessman, then marry him. Unfortunately, her wealthy boss doesn't get with the program, and Jimmy, the man with whom Millie falls in love, is a penniless playboy.

There are other complications as well, including the fact that some of the women she has come to know are disappearing from the inexpensive boarding hotel where they all live.

Directed by Kerry Graves, associate professor of theater and speech communication at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Millie stars Erin Yuen of Adrian as the title character. A Croswell veteran, Yuen has appeared in such productions as Anything Goes, Proof, and Smokey Joe's Caf.

Also from Adrian, Ryan Buehler portrays Millie's boss, Trevor Graydon; Leah Crocetto is nightclub singer Muzzy Van Hossmere; Michelle Force is Miss Flannery, the office manager; and Jason Yuen is Ching Ho, one of the Chinese workers employed by Mrs. Meers, who runs the boarding hotel. Mrs. Meers is played by Julia Hawkins of Ann Arbor, and her second employee, Bun Foo, is played by Trevor Roderick of Jonesville, Mich.

Michael Lane of Flint takes the role of Jimmy Smith, Millie's penniless love interest, and Devan O'Malia of Whitehouse plays Dorothy Brown, another newcomer to the city who becomes Millie's best friend.

Completing the cast is an ensemble of 20 performers from northwest Ohio and southwest Michigan.

The Croswell Opera House presents "Thoroughly Modern Millie" tomorrow through June 24 in the theater at 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors, $20 for students, and $15 for children 12 and younger. Information: 517-264-7469 or www.croswell.org.

Theatre Kidz, Inc., presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat this weekend in the Maumee Indoor Theatre.

The company's founder, Jon Smith, directs the show, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and based on the biblical story about Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. While sticking close to the story in Genesis, Joseph taps musical genres that include calypso, country, and rock and roll.

Musical direction for Joseph is by Magda Kress, a junior at Toledo School for the Arts, and David Fioritto of the Random Acts theatrical company.

Theatre Kidz is an educational troupe with children ages 4-18 from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is scheduled at 7 p.m. tomorrow, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Maumee Indoor Theatre, 601 Conant St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Information: 419-344-6884.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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