By David Kent | staff writer
Costumes on and in perfect condition, make-up powdered onto the face of students, the Johnson Theater prepares to reveal it’s new production, Guys and Dolls, which will run through Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. Tickets will be sold in the Cafeteria for the rest of the week or online for either $10 to $15. This play is a mixture of both a musical and a comedy, wrapped around the aesthetic design and riveting time period of the 1950s.
”Guys and Dolls is about a group of gamblers who are looking for a place to have the biggest craps game of the year but it also involves a couple of romances as well. It involves Nathan and Adelaide who have been engaged for fourteen years, and Adelaide really wants to get married, but Nathan keeps on like putting it off,” theater teacher Megan Thompson said. “And then it also involves Sky Masterson who is the biggest gambler of them all, who makes a bet that he can take the head of the mission, Sara Brown, out to Havana. And he does, but he also falls in love with her, and she falls in love with him.”
Guys and Dolls involve both students from the theater department in terms of actors and tech crew, along with students from the music department in terms of live music.
”In the cast, there was about 45 [or] 46 actors. In the pit, which makes up the band [and the] orchestra that’s playing during the show, there are about thirty-five, thirty-six students down there that are playing,” theater teacher Jay Asterman said. “And then in the crew, [tech crew], it was eighty on the crew, from building the set and painting it and all that kind of stuff, running the show. So the total would be at probably one-sixty [students] altogether.”
The musical is not the largest that Johnson Theater had done thus far, however, much like previous musicals, such as last year’s Beauty and the Beast, the play involves the Johnson Orchestra in conjunction with the theater department.
“Since year two [we’ve worked with the music department], and it was the first musical that we did which was ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ And from that musical, we worked with Mr. Lipman, [he] was the first and from that musical that we worked with Mr. Lipman was the first conductor, because it was a small rock band,” Asterman said. “So, you know, think of your normal rock band, it was that size, and that’s all that show needed for that time.”
It has taken the theater and music departments an estimated three months to direct and to set-up the play, from costuming, to rehearsals, and to music.
”They’ve started learning the songs for the show, the actors, with singing rehearsals with Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Hester. [Singing rehearsals] started right after Thanksgiving. The Orchestra has been practicing since about November as well on the music,” Asterman said. “With the first time that we’ve put the singers and the band together was actually this past Friday. So they had a working rehearsal where they were making sure that they had the same tempos and rhythm and that they were in the right spot s and doing all that type of stuff.”
Guys and Dolls is a first for the fine arts department, however that doesn’t hamper their excitement about performing something new that they have never done before..
“We, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Hester, Mrs. Thompson, myself, and Ms. George had a meeting back in April about what we were going to do this year for the musical. We came up with Guys and Dolls. And then we started…Ms.Thompson started [the] building [in] November on the set. We had the auditions at the end of October for the musical. The students were learning the music after Thanksgiving Break and then [the students] started learning [the] choreography at the end of December. And then we started putting everything together at the end of December [and] beginning of January,” Asterman said. “We had a group musical meeting and we talked back and forth about what we wanted to do. And it was one that most of us had not done before, Mr. Thompson had done it before when she was at another high school, but most of us had not done it before and it seemed like the right choice for the students that we had.”
The theater department is, of course, excited to present Guys and Dolls to the general public.
“This time around we’re actually doing okay, we’re right on schedule, in fact, [we’re] just a touch ahead. So that’s not always a thing…sometimes we’re either on schedule or we’re running a little behind so this time we’re actually okay,” Asterman said. “We are always excited to have the audience come in to see the show cause usually by the time the show is getting to the opening, we have seen it many, many times and so we are more focused on the things that don’t work than the things that we think are going to work. So it’s really nice to see the audience and see their reactions to it, and it’s like ‘Oh, everything’s fine, everything’s okay.’ It’s one of those things that you’ve worked on for so long, it’s hard to step away from it. So, we’re really excited to have audiences come and see the show, I think the students are really excited about it.”