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Guys and Dolls

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Broadway's Tony-award-winning Guys and Dolls, first produced in 1950, has been a reliable musical theater staple since its first production. With book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, based on stories by Damon Runyon filled with chorus girls, gangsters, and denizens of the New York streets, it delivers a highly entertaining story accompanied by some of composer and lyricist Frank Loesser's most engaging music. A movie in 1955 starred Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine, who was part of the original Broadway cast.

By now the story is familiar. A small time gambler who sets up crap games, Nathan Detroit (Christopher Swan), is looking around for a place to hold his next game, because a lot of high rollers are clamoring for action. He is running out of locations, and the local cop, Lieutenant Brannigan (Michael C. Thatcher), is breathing down his neck.

He is finally promised a spot at Joey Biltmore's garage if he comes up with $1000 in cash. Desperate, he hears gambler Sky Masterson (Matthew J. Taylor) is in town, and he has a reputation for betting on anything. When Nathan challenges him to take a 'doll' to Havana, Masterson agrees before he learns that said woman is Sister Sarah Brown (Kayleen Seidl) from the Save-a-Soul Mission.

As in any good romantic story, she accompanies him, and they fall in love. But there are always complications before true love wins out.

As appealing as the main storyline is, the parallel story of Detroit and his girlfriend, Miss Adelaide (Lauren Weinberg), the star of the Hot Box Club,  generally provides the audience-pleasing comedy in the show. Engaged for fourteen years, Miss Adelaide is desperately trying to get Nathan to marry her. "Adelaide's Lament" is a great comic number delivered by Weinberg with a nod to Blaine's performance.

Runyon's quintessential New Yorkers parade through "Runyonland" at the beginning of the show setting the mood. From sailors to street hucksters and fancy ladies to policemen, the music and dancing set an artistic mood for the fun to follow.

Along with the principals are a stellar set of gamblers who provide Runyon's signature characteristic style. Benny Southstreet (Mike McLean), Nicely Nicely Johnson (Todd Berkich), Harry the Horse (Cliff Blake), and Big Jule (John Galas) are welcome additions adding color and comedy to the two love stories.

From the colorful "The Oldest Established (Permanent Floating Crap Game), "Take Back Your Mink," and "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" to the lyrical "I'll Know," "I've Never Been in Love Before," and "If I Were a Bell," the multitude of tunes and dance numbers heighten the enjoyment of the rather slim story.

Seidl and Taylor make an attractive couple, though they lack some of the basic chemistry of two polar opposites engaging in their love story. Swan and Weinberg, however, deliver the goods to great comic effect.

Director Jeffrey B. Moss keeps the pace moving as he manages the large cast. Particularly notable is his 'Runyonland' opening with lots of stylish cast members establishing New York street atmosphere. Bob Richard's choreography is also effective, particularly the "Crapshooters' Dance."

Costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case are colorful and fit the time period well. Scenery Designer Randel Wright executes the NY scene with economy and style. It is always part of the thrill of musical comedy to have a live orchestra accompanying the cast (Peter Nilsen/Director/Conductor).

No matter how many times you see a production of this musical, you can find a new interpretation or a friendly re-creation of a prior memorable performance. This traveling show is worth the drive to Orange County.



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.