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Guys, bring your dolls this musical comedy

September 28, 2012

Many of the great movie musicals have come straight from the Broadway stage: "Oklahoma," "Kiss me Kate," "Carousel," "Grease," "Hairspray," "The Jersey Boys," "Les Miserable" and "Godspell" just to name a few. Many times the Broadway cast will fill their same roles in the film, but more often than not Hollywood will cast its main stars into these prized roles.

"Guys and Dolls" opened on Broadway in 1950. The musical's music and lyrics were written by Frank Loesser and the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The musical was based on a couple of short stories written by Damon Runyon. Runyon, in my mind, is the master of the New York slang and snappy patter. The Broadway musical won a Tony for the Best Musical that year. (Note: A Tony is an award named after Antoinette Perry who was a co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, the organization that gives the Tony award.) The musical was also given the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The story centers around some New York small timers, Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stubby Kaye), Nathan's girl friend (Miss Adelaide) and a mission worker Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) as well as "The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York." As you might have noted, a few unexpected actors were cast in the film, especially Marlon Brando in the lead. Brando introduced the world to the "method," an acting technique that began in the late 1940s in the Actors Studio. Because of Brando, this method became important in theatre and film. Brando was known for serious film roles: "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Julius Caesar," "On the Waterfront," and "The Wild One." Needless to say, the critics were not kind to Mr. Brando in his first and last foray into musical comedy. You will have to be the judge of his ability in this role.

The film is filled with great musical numbers such as "If I were a Bell," "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." A few additional songs were added to the film version of the musical so that Frank Sinatra would have more singing to do, which his fans really appreciated.

Check out this delightful musical comedy this weekend at the Orpheum. Most of the musicals that came out of the "golden age" of Hollywood are "G" rated and this is no exception.

The show times are 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theatre for tours, or call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit


Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher and is heavily involved in the Marshalltown Community Theatre. LaVille's Critic's Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.



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