Backstage Review: ‘Guys and Dolls’, A Magnificent Romp Through The 1930s

~By Norm Robins~

~Photos by Dana Nollsch~

Do you want a frolic through New York’s demi-monde of the 1930s? Do you want an evening that is just plain fun, one that is breezy and carefree? If so, Guys and Dolls is for you. The Sierra School of Performing Arts is currently performing this gem of a musical at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch. Do not let the school name fool you. This big, splashy production is as professionally done as you will get this side of Broadway.

Damon Runyon, the author on whose stories it is based, writes warmly, even lovingly of the characters who inhabit the Broadway of the time. They are gamblers, gangsters, and hustlers. He gives them names comprised of an actual name and a description: Nicely-Nicely Johnson is so named because when asked how he is, he replies nicely nicely, thank you. Sky Masterson is so named because he bets the sky on anything. (Please note in an homage to Runyon, we avoid the past tense just as Runyon does. It’s a difficult feat to pull off speaking only in the present and future tenses, but it adds much to the characterization. And to the extent possible we avoid contractions, do not instead of don’t, cannot instead of can’t, again just as Runyon does. This adds syncopation to the dialogue.)

Bright and Sassy, “Guys and Dolls” will have you smiling nonstop. Produced by “Sierra School of Performing Arts” this is a top-notch production filled with high energy performances.
I highly recommend seeing Guys and Dolls.

Dana Nollsch

Our first hero Nathan Detroit, proprietor of “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York”, must raise $1000 to pay Joey Biltmore for use of the Biltmore Garage for this year’s game. This is necessary because there are well heeled shooters in town looking for action. Brandy Bottle Bates, the Greek, and Big Jule from Chicago are there, but the heat is on in the person of Police Lt. Brannigan. And that being the case, as Nathan sings, “The back of the police station is out.” “Got to have the game, or we’ll die from shame”, he laments. (Frank Loesser who wrote the music and lyrics does not share Runyon’s disdain for contractions.)

Our second hero Sky Masterson is Nathan’s mark. He bets Sky $1000 he cannot get a date with a doll of Nathan’s choosing for a dinner in Havana, Cuba. Sky takes the bet. Nathan’s doll is Sarah Brown aka Singing Sarah of the Save-a-Soul Mission. She is an uptight, prissy but pretty woman and utterly unlikely to go with him to Havana, Cuba.

But she does. Why? Because the Mission’s management has threatened to close it if they do not get some sinners at their upcoming revival meeting. Sky promises Singing Sarah one dozen genuine sinners—not just sinners of dubious provenance, but genuine ones–if she does. The offer is too compelling to resist. She agrees in the name of a higher good.

And so the story goes through hilarious twists and turns that are charmingly portrayed and heartwarming and fun. It is full of delightful music, and much of the story is told in song, “Fugue for Tinhorns”, “The Oldest Established”, “I’ll Know”, “Adelaide’s Lament”, “Luck Be a Lady”, “Sit Down, You’re rocking the Boat”, and “Marry the Man Today” to name just a few.

This show is as close to flawless as can be. The cast, too many to be named person by person, performs magnificently. The four main principals playing Sarah, Nathan Detroit, Miss Adelaide, and Sky Masterson are very well cast and perform with heartwarming professionalism. The orchestra belts out music in copious quantities that insist on being heard. Choreography, sets, and costumes are great. The pace is fast, but the tempo varies beautifully with the mood.

Guys and Dolls plays Friday and Saturday, August 9th and 10th, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 16th, 17th, and 18th, and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, August 22nd, 23rd, and 24th at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch, Reno. For more information go to


Sarah Brown                                          Alexa Bernal

Nathan Detroit                             Kirk Gardner

Miss Adelaide                             Sophie Moeller

Sky Masterson                             Jeff Chamberlain

Nicely-Nicely Johnson               Mark Calise

Benny Southstreet                             Christopher Fesenmaier

Rusty Charlie                             Daniel Shaver

Harry The Horse                             Dave Anderson

Lt. Brannigan                                          Michael Peters

Big Jule                                           Grant Humason

Arvide Abernathy                             Scott House

General Cartwright                             Traci Biondi

Agatha                                           Veronica Fraser

Joey Biltmore                             Keith Lightfoot

Mimi                                                         Katie Hughes

Tobie Barton, Katie Hughes, Kelly Messer, Jessica Pauletto, Kimberly Richman

Kirsten Davis, Katie Hippert, Dani Jasper, Hannah Mills


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