Guys & Dolls

There are far too many people and far too many things to remember here, much less relate. This was a huge piece of work; the largest amateur production of its sort, I'm sure. Don't bother to ask me why Bill Lee thought we could ever pull it off, as after all these years I still have absolutely no idea. As I said, this was a huge production. Even with the large cast (you can see many of their names below) we had many people doubling and tripling up on responsibilities. Nevertheless, we did pull it off, primarily through the force of Bill's will.

I do recall that I'd actually auditioned for the part of Arvide Abernathy (I really wanted to do Uncle Arvide with an Irish brogue. Jim Shannahan trumped me, though; he's a native of Ireland). Somehow I was cast as one of the leads (Nathan Detroit) instead. I also did some choreography, specifically on "Trio" (which you might know better as "I've Got the Horse Right Here") and "If I Were a Bell". I played a bit of piano (poorly) for the rehearsals... somebody had to. And like everybody else I did my best to do what I could.

Our first performance was very nearly a disaster. I wrecked my car on my way to the theatre; this was on December 6th, 1985, and the roads were covered with black ice. This is also when I found out exactly how much better a Mercedes is built than a Pontiac T-1000 (I was driving the Pontiac). In the accident my knees were shredded on the plastic dashboard. I pushed my car (a total loss) to the side of the road and walked to my home in Brackley to get my costume and props. I simply taped up my torn and bleeding knees and went on with the show. Afterward I went to the hospital and had them taken care of. There's a moment in the play where Nathan drops to his knees and begs Adelaide for another chance. I'm told that it was heartfelt and tearful. In reality it was simply excrutiatingly painful. Keep in mind that Guys & Dolls is a musical... I had to dance on those legs and sing cheerful songs while doing it. I've still got the scars.

That wasn't the worst of it, though. The pianist for this musical production lived 30 miles away, in Oxford. He didn't arrive for the opening curtain; he didn't have a ride. So cast members entertained the crowd (including our base commander and a contingent of nuns from a local school) for the hour it took for someone to drive the round trip to Oxford. We actually resorted to drum solos. Eventually he did arrive and we raised the curtain an hour and a half late. The audience loved the show.

After a successful run on-base, Bill had the amazingly ambitious idea to take the show on the road. I remember at the time thinking that he would be an excellent candidate for experimental medication. However, as it turned out, he was right and we were able to pull it off (though sometimes just barely.) We did a number of charity performances 'round about Oxfordshire, to very kind reviews. (Here's one) The venue that stands out most in my mind was village of Sandford-on-Thames. We were doing the performance to help raise money for a new roof for the village hall, and the performance was held in the building itself. When they say "hall" they mean it... this was simply a large room, similar to a church fellowship hall. So there was no stage. We did have a door on either side of one end of the building, though, so those were our "wings". "Backstage" was simply outside. Now remember the size of the production and imagine the logistics of actually pulling this off with even a cut-down cast, no curtain, and one spotlight. To top it all off, halfway through the performance it started to rain. Nevertheless, we played to a packed house and they were kind enough to applaud and make pleasant noises when we were done. This is the kind of experience that every actor should go through once. Once.

Cast of Characters

Nathan Detroit: Dave Leigh
Miss Adelaide: Deston Lee
Sky Masterson Kirk Chalmers
Sgt. Sarah Brown: Kathy Knight
Nicely-Nicely Johnson: Jerry Miller
Benny Southstreet: Tim Hill
Lt. Brannigan: Tom Walker
Bill Lee
Bob Wells
Harry the Horse: Leonard A. Mathis
Big Jule: Peter A Wolter
Arvide Abernathy: James P. Shanahan
Gen. Matilda B. Cartwright: Dorothy Winchell

Cathy L. Henderson
Debbie Ramer
Don Owens
Ramon Vega

Kent Allsebrooke
Michael Carbonell
Lloyd Kindred
Tyler Palmer
Steve Sanches
Jim Picariello
Devlin Baker
Bill Lee
Jim Shanahan
Pierre LeGault

Deb Boss
Tammi Ford
Lorri Heick
Senada Schlingen
Jane Corrigan
Kimberly Gabriel
Kathy Henderson

Production Staff

Director/Producer: William J. Lee
Choreographers: Terry Kruse
Dave Leigh
Lights: Tom Walker
Set Designer/Builder: Lawrence Winchell
Bill Lee
Costumes: Terry Kruse
Debbie Hargreaves
Debbie Ramer
Makeup: Kent Allsebrooke
Rehearsal Pianist: Dave Leigh
Stage Manager: Alvin Pugh
Properties Cindy Ackerman

Pianist: Neil Simmons
Drums: Terry Vickers
Saxophone: Ramon Vega
Clarinet: Cathy Henderson

Pages from the program. Note the nifty caricatures. The fellow in the bowler and bow tie is me.