YSO and a stellar cast present concert version of ‘Guys & Dolls’


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By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

The classic tunes of “Guys and Dolls” will be front and center when the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra performs the landmark Broadway musical in a theatrical setting Saturday at Powers Auditorium.

With a cast of professional and top regional actors, the YSO will present the concert version of “Guys & Dolls,” that streamlines the scenes and dialog while keeping the characters and the story intact.

Saturday’s show will be the first time the YSO has ever done a concert version of a musical.

Todd Hancock of Easy Street Productions is directing a cast that includes Allan Snyder, Natalia Lepore Hagan, Elysia Jordan and John Cox.

Fleischer has assembled a 20-person orchestra that will be seated on a 1940s-style bandstand at center stage. On both sides of the orchestra, 20-foot screens will provide the scenery as the action moves from Times Square in New York to Havana, Cuba.

“Guys and Dolls,” which premiered in 1950 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical, revolves around a quartet of characters: the harried hustler Nathan Detroit (Cox); his long-suffering girlfriend, Adelaide (Lepore Hagan); high-roller Sky Masterson (Snyder); and Sarah Brown (Jordan), whom Masterson woos to win a bet.

The colorful New York characters are straight out of the short stories of Damon Runyon, and were adapted into the stage show with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Hancock, the director, said the “Guys & Dolls” concert version condenses the musical while maintaining its essence.

IF YOU GO

What: “Guys & Dolls,” the concert version

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Powers Auditorium, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown

Tickets: $20 to $55; call 330-744-0264 or go to youngstownsymphony.com

Actors share their thoughts on production

“It streamlines an already wonderful show into a faster-paced production without sacrificing any of the lines or songs that have made this a beloved icon of American musical theater,” he said.

Because the version eliminates the dance numbers and tightens the script, it employs a narrator to connect the dots of the story.

Hancock plays that narrator. He will be seated at a desk at stage left for the entire performance, recounting the action in the style of an old-time radio host.

“Guys & Dolls” has been around for seven decades and shows its age, but the greatness of its music will never be tarnished.

“This show set the standard for musicals back in the day, and the songs will live on forever,” said Hancock. His actor-singers check every box that he and YSO music director Randall Craig Fleischer wanted.

“When the project was presented to me, I immediately thought Elysia Jordan and Natalia Lepore Hagan would be absolutely perfect for the two female leading roles,” said Hancock. “Luckily they were both finishing up their first national tours of Broadway shows (“School of Rock” for Jordan, and “Love Never Dies” for Lepore Hagan) and were able to commit to the show in December.

“John Cox, who has been starring in comedic roles for years at the Youngstown Playhouse, was the obvious choice for Nathan Detroit. Mr. Fleischer wanted the role of Sky Masterson to fall to someone with Broadway credits. We quickly realized that Allan Snyder fit the bill perfectly, with several notable credits, and he had just relocated from New York to Pittsburgh.”

The remaining roles in the massive cast were filled with actors that Hancock considers to be the cream of the crop of the local theater community. These include James Major Burns (as Nicely Nicely Johnson), Brendan Boyle (Benny Southstreet), Eric McClellan (Arvide Abernathy), Maureen Collins (Gen. Matilda B. Cartwright), Jamie Deeley (Lieutenant Brannigan), Bob Kozar (Harry the Horse) and Chuck Simon (Big Jule).

Hancock also leaned heavily on Easy Street music director Don Yallech, who handled the music during rehearsals, and choreographer Megan Cleland.

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