'Guys and Dolls' Sandhills Presents Musical Theater Classic
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
"Guys and Dolls," a true classic of American musical theater, lights up the stage of Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College this weekend.
Not a student production, the broad-based community effort features a cast and creative team drawn from all over Moore County - amateurs, semi-pros, professionals, SCC students, faculty, staff and alumni. The production is part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the college's founding in 1963.
Set in the 1950s, the musical is based on plot elements and characters from short stories by Damon Runyon. First presented on Broadway more than 60 years ago, the show ran for 1,200 performances, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Rick Smith, the dean of institutional advancement at the college, has teamed with Jennifer Thomas, of the college's music department, to put together a very polished production.
"Jennifer and I have been talking about doing a show like this here at the college for a number of years," he says. "We both have a passion for musical theater. However, we realized that it takes a lot of time and resources, particularly when you are doing it for the first time, in order to do it right."
This production was made possible in part by a generous grant to the college from The C. Louis Meyer Family Foundation, Smith explains.
"The grant, to be used for cultural -enrichment purposes, enabled us to hire professional musicians for a pit orchestra, pay licensing fees, obtain costumes as well as sets and other necessary equipment," he says.
Thomas is the director of the production, and Smith fills the position of producer of "Guys and Dolls," as well as being a member of the large cast.
One of the first obstacles to be overcome, according to Smith, was to attract enough people to come to the auditions.
"What started out as a trickle turned into a flood, as the word spread," he says. "One of the joys of this experience was to discover the incredible talent in this community."
For example, there is a complete family of seven participating in the show - the Burton family of Carthage. Casey Burton, the oldest daughter, a student at Sandhills, won the lead role of Sarah Brown.
The lead characters in "Guys and Dolls," in addition to Sarah Brown, a Salvation Army sergeant, include Nathan Detroit, a typical New York fixer; Miss Adelaide, a ditzy blonde nightclub performer; Sky Masterson, a suave gambler; and Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who works for Nathan.
The part of Nicely is played by Michael Jones, who appeared in that role in a Temple Theatre production a couple of years ago. Jones, who has been an adjunct member of the SCC faculty, is a professional actor and teacher. He is a favorite of regional audiences, having been seen in local Moore OnStage productions, as well as in a variety of roles in Raleigh, Sanford and Fayetteville theaters
Eric Kopecky, with his native New York accent, represents Nathan in authentic style. He is very familiar with "Guys and Dolls," having directed the show in the past, as well as being a musician in a pit orchestra for another production of the classic.
Kopecky, with theatrical experience in his background, is a bassoonist who founded the Moore Philharmonic Orchestra, and presently teaches at Southern Pines Middle School,
Miss Adelaide is portrayed by Jacquie Plate. A former voice student at the college, "she was crafted in heaven to play this part," says Rick Smith.
Matthew Carriker, now a student at SCC, is the handsome Sky Masterson. His prior experience in musical theater was a leading role in the Pinecrest High School production of "Crazy for You."
The creative team, assembled by Thomas and Smith, is highlighted by a costume designer who worked for Walt Disney World in Florida for more than 25 years.
Rebecca Haigh, now a Southern Pines resident, is described by Jennifer Thomas as "amazing, and a true artist in the stage costuming arena." Other professionals on the production team are technical director Doug Fry, stage manager Kim Fielder-Jones, acting coach Joy Karcher, and Shauntel Gaines who is doing the choreography.
Having a passion for dance, Gaines is a former military veteran and the mother of two young boys. She is presently a voice student at Sandhills Community College.
"When I was approached to be the choreographer of 'Guys and Dolls,' I was flattered to have the opportunity," she says. "I have had previous choreographic experience, but not on the scale required by musical theater."
To Thomas, the biggest challenge facing her participation in the production was the wearing of several hats.
"As music director and dramatic director, I have also acted as production designer," she says. "I had an idea of what I wanted the production to look like, and putting all the details together while maintaining high musical standards has been a challenge, but the rewards are worth the effort. I, and several others involved in the production, have a hope that this might be the start of a full-scale theater program at the college."
"Guys and Dolls" will be performed at the Owens Auditorium on campus on Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students, seniors and active military, and can be purchased online by following the link from the college's website or at the door.
Contact freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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