Mainstream musicals are a rarity at Theatreworks. Not only are Broadway spectacles difficult to stage in a black-box space, says artistic director Murray Ross, they also tend not to fit with the company's mission to recreate classic performances in theater.
His latest show, however, is different.
"There's a lot of crap out there, but Guys and Dolls is a remarkable work," Ross says in a telephone interview.
One of Broadway's biggest hits, Guys and Dolls grew out of yarns spun by Pueblo native Damon Runyon in a 1932 short-story collection. It recounts the unlikely love affair between a streetwise gambler and a prudish missionary, set in a gritty New York City populated with gangsters, gamblers and petty thieves.
To win a bet with illegal craps game operator Nathan Detroit (David Corder), Sky Masterson (Kaleb Kohart) convinces Salvation Army Sgt. Sarah Brown (Amanda Holmes) to go on a date with him to Havana, Cuba. Against the odds, they fall for each other and have to reconcile the considerable differences in their lives upon returning to New York.
As Ross says, "Runyon invented the gangster," and Masterson is the iconic Runyon hero. He's a man who lives by his wits, swans around with "dolls" and talks in an inimitable vernacular. Referred to as "Runyonesque," this style of speaking has been replicated repeatedly on stage and in the movies, to become the language of gangsters.
"Like Mark Twain, Runyon was a writer who, through his voice, added a completely new dimension to American speaking and the American language," says Ross.
Story and language aside, Broadway is all about the glitzy dances and catchy tunes. Songs like "The Crapshooters' Dance" and the ensemble scenes in a sultry Havana night will send spirits soaring, says Kohart.
The large dance numbers will provide a challenge for the performers, especially with the audience seated just 2 feet from the stage. Even with a condensed cast of 25, Ross admits there isn't much room to move.
"The result is like Broadway in your lap," he says. "It's right there in front of you you're right in the sewer with the crapshooters."
When asked about Colorado Springs' hit-or-miss history with musicals, Ross gives this show good odds on wowing the crowds.
"Musicals on their own can turn into marshmallows," he says. "But with Runyon, you get style and sinew."
And with a little lap dancing thrown in there, too, it should be a night to remember.
Guys and Dolls
Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Cragwood Drive
May 25-June 18, Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinee, 2 p.m. (excluding May 27); Sunday, 4 p.m.
Tickets: $22 in advance, $25 at the door for adults, $12 for 16-and-under; call 262-3232 or visit uccstheatreworks.com.