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18Nov

Guys and Dolls, Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington, Virginia, November 16, 2019

Ella Fosse

Lake Braddock Secondary School

 

The streets of New York are tapping along to a jaunty beat. The roads bustle with street vendors, policemen, and whispers of an underground crap game that's got every man hooked. Bishop O'Connell's recent production of Guys and Dolls danced onto the scene with an energy akin to the streets of Fifth Avenue in this classic musical.

 

The musical premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre in 1950 and has been revered by musical theatre fans ever since. It is a portal back in time to New York City during the 1950s, reflected in the music and technical aspects. With music by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, this fast-paced production details the intertwined lives of a gambler trying to find a venue for his crap game, his performer fiancée with a peculiar illness, a straight-backed missionary sergeant and a gambler who never seems to lose a game. 

 

Bishop O'Connell executed this production with a delightful burst of energy, evident from the moment the first suit-clad man stepped onstage. This was illustrated by the large ensemble, who were always immersed in the scene, never alienating the audience. Each had a distinct personality and interacted with the surroundings with a unique display of that character. Through the variety of tableaus created by the ensemble members, the show was brought to life.

 

While the performance was executed by a truly admirable group of actors, there are some that deserve a spotlight. Katie Stansel's portrayal of Miss Adelaide sauntered onto the stage with an energy so riveting that it was impossible not to pay attention to her. Her immense stage presence drew audiences to her so well that every little quip in her New York accent was a delight. She brought excellent humor and incredible vocal skills to songs like "Adelaide's Lament" and "Sue Me". She had extraordinary stage chemistry with anyone she so much as exchanged a word with. Other standouts included Lara Sunter, who characterized the stiff Sarah Brown admirably, accented by her melodic soprano. Sophomore Carson Barnes embodied the wily Nathan Detroit with a wink and a smile, bringing considerable charisma to the stage. Sky Masterson, portrayed by Aidan O'Donovan, stood out especially in numbers like "Luck Be A Lady Tonight".

 

This production had a vast number of standouts from the talented cast. Luke Sullivan brought great comedic timing and an excellent voice to the lovable character of Nicely-Nicely Johnson. His bouncy characterization made his rendition of "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" a clear audience favorite. An unlikely star found itself in the two-minute cameo of Gavin Salinas's Joey Biltmore, whose heavy New York accent had the audience howling with laughter for the short scene he was in. Anthony Jeffress brought an astounding maturity to not only the character, but the voice of Brother Arvide Abernathy, while still cracking jokes here and there.

 

The technical aspects were essential to the success of this performance. The hair design for the show, by Jenna McKibbin, not only exemplified the era, but went along with the character development of Sarah Brown. As she became more carefree, her hair came down from its tight bun. Madeline Johnson and Connor Owens's set design was an integral part of the show, providing levels for the actors to work with and even utilizing a trapdoor as a sewer manhole at one point.

 

Overall, the cast and crew of Bishop O'Connell's Guys and Dolls brought a vivacious energy to the stage in a well-executed production that brought the audience out of their seats.


Emma Carpenter

McLean High School

 

In a world of gangsters, gamblers, and guns, Bishop O'Connell High School's production of "Guys and Dolls" takes us back to 1950s New York regarding a bet that goes horribly wrong.

 

Since its premiere on Broadway in 1950, "Guys and Dolls" has been revived time and time again, receiving numerous Tony awards along the way. Playwright Jo Swerling recounts the story of a businessman with divided loyalties, Nathan Detroit, as he makes a bet with Sky Masterson, a charismatic but self-assured gambler. Masterson's goal; to take Sarah Brown, the town's religious ambassador, down to Havana Cuba to win $1000. However, things aren't what they seem as a 14-year engagement starts to crumble and a new unlikely love begins to emerge.

 

From her first moment on stage, Miss Adelaide played by Katie Stansel, carried the show with her lively persona and spirited energy. Torn between her character's exasperation and devotion for Nathan, Stansel captured the attention of the audience, particularly through her captivating and engaging vocals that presented her emotion and providing her character depth. Stansel gracefully managed to sing elegantly while maintaining her Manhattan accent.

 

Opposites really do attract, as shown by Aidan O'Donovan, portraying the role of gambler and "sinner" Sky Masterson. Watching his character fall in love with the contrastingly stern Sarah Brown (Lara Sunter) allowed O'Donovan to portray his characters' vulnerable side as they both personified their opposing traits, creating an endearing connection onstage. His strong and clear voice complemented Sunters' effortless falsetto as they captured their sentimental moments.

 

Sending the audiences into hysterics with every appearance, Luke Sullivan, portraying Nicely-Nicely, made the most of every moment on stage with his joking persona and consistent accent that charmed the audience throughout the show. With sarcastic charisma, witty charm and will-timed humor, Sullivan was the comic powerhouse of the show. His notable performance of the electrifying number "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" displayed his engaging stage presence as he took the spotlight, showing off the ensemble's collective energy and unison of choreography. During this piece, the ensemble managed to maintain their distinctly individual characters while remaining a part of the group as the show descended into a comedic spiral of madness and complications.

 

From costumes to the language and accents within the musical, every part of the production felt like it was straight out of the 1950s. The vibrant and well-tailored costumes enhanced each character's persona while still looking and feeling authentic. Noteworthy examples include Miss Adelaide Hot Box girls as they twirled around the stage in alternating outfits per song, not to mention Miss Adelaide's astounding quick costume change into a wedding dress during the final scene. The set, headed by Madeline Johnson and Connor Owen, consisted of a simplistic platform with stairs on either side and a trapdoor acting as a manhole cover to the sewer during one of the final scenes. Perfectly fitting the needs for the show, the set accommodated for a large cast effectively as the lighting efficiently aided scene transition and place from night into day, from the streets to the sewers.

 

Whether attempting to acquire $1000 or just trying to save the souls of the damned, Bishop O'Connell's rendition of "Guys and Dolls" is priceless, entertaining audiences throughout the theatre.

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