You won’t be gambling if you go to see the Honeoye Falls-Lima High School Drama Club’s production of Guys and Dolls this weekend as it is a sure bet that the student cast will entertain you with this musical comedy.
Members of the cast are Jason Howard as Nathan Detroit, Jenna Quinn as Adelaide, David Tuller as Sky Masterson, Kate Gabrielsen as Sarah Brown, Colin Fanning as Nicely Nicely Johnson, Nick Boggio as Benny Southstreet, Will Emerson as Rusty Charlie, Mikey Ruff as Harry The Horse, Maegan Frame as Arvida Abernathy, Noah Adams as Lt. Brannigan (and as Knee High Lenny in “Luck Be A Lady”), Andy Fosler as Angie The Ox, Paige Moscicki as Agatha (Save A Soul Mission), Gioia Celi as Calvin (Save A Soul Mission), Gabrielle Chapman as Martha (Save a Soul Mission), Owen Dack as Big Jule (and also providing the voice of Joey Biltmore), Mary Repass as General Cartwright, Kai Ferraro as Society Max and Zach Boehm as the Master of Ceremonies in the Hot Box and as a crapshooter. Save A Soul Mission members are Abby Fraser, Jorja Harvey, Hannah Miller, Gina Piccirilli, Rory Papietro and Sophia Torres. Ellie Camp and Finn Lind are the Waiters in both the Hot Box scenes and the Havana scene. The Dolls in the “A Bushel and A Peck” song are Nora Anderson, Aubrey Bent, Ellen Burke, Ella Clark, Claire Connors, Maeve Connors, Madison Fleming, Taber Gloor, Maggie Grann, Kaylee Henshaw, Sophia Jacopille-Bornheimer, Macy Letendre, Amelia Somers and Madalyne Sousou. In the “Take Back Your Mink” song are Anderson, Bent, Burke, Clark, Fleming, Gloor, Grann, Henshaw, Jacopille-Bornheimer, Letendre and Somers. Dancers in the Havana scene are Bent, Burke, Clark, Claire Connors, Maeve Connors, Fleming, Gloor, Jacopille-Bornheimer, Somers and Sousou.
Kaelyn Frame and Kayla Wells are the student directors, assisting artistic director John Hennessey. Crew members for the production are Evie Ha, Eva Jackson, Eden Powell, Bria Torpey, Ale Pringle, Casey Briggs, Ellie Davis, Hazel Jokl, Jenna Lawrence, Finley Neenan, Reese Carter, Madeline Conklin, Brinley Cross, Adam Depuy, Samantha Healy, Lucy Kirkwood, Abby Maylin, Bridgette Sayer, Katelynn Vukosic, Mackenna Weaver, Lilly Shull, Aiyana Basciani, Olivia Henderson, Owen Boggio, Ava Youngblut, Lita Brady, Sam Roth, Ethan Ahn, Natalia Carlson, Olivia Jacobs, Evie Rose, Briana Rowles and Madeline Wright.
Guys and Dolls is the last show at HF-L for Tuller, a senior. His first show at HF-L was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Middle School as a seventh-grader, which was followed by his first lead role as the title character in Aladdin as an eighth-grader. He was in Bye Bye Birdie as a freshman at the high school, but the show was never performed for an audience because of COVID, and then portrayed Marius in last year’s production of Les Misérables.
“My mom was a big part of my getting involved in musical theatre,” Tuller said during an interview before a recent rehearsal. “I started when I was eight years old and since then it has been a passion. I moved to HF-L in seventh-grade and I saw the theatre program here and loved it. Ever since then, I haven’t stopped; from Willie Wonka to Aladdin to Bye Bye Birdie, which never went up but that was quite an experience, to Les Misérables last year which was just amazing and now Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.”
This will also be the final curtain call at HF-L for Howard, who is a senior. He has been involved in the musicals at HF-L since his years at the Middle School. He was part of the crew as a sixth-grader and onstage for both Willie Wonka and Aladdin and has done all the fall drama shows at the high school as well as the musicals. He played Thenardier in Les Miserables last spring and now has another iconic role as Nathan Detroit, a role made famous by Frank Sinatra in the 1955 movie version of this Broadway classic.
“Thenardier was crazy, he was so all over the place,” Howard said. “It was very interesting and I had a lot of fun with it. In this case, being able to show off what I can do in a more serious role, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I feel I can show that I can do both sides of the spectrum, whether it’s funny or it’s serious. Nathan is a character actor, don’t get me wrong I like to sing, but there’s something about him that you have to be able to work into the character and really dissect what it’s about and what it’s asking you to do. I feel that’s something I’m good at doing and I really enjoy it. It’s a funny character and I like to make people laugh.”
Unlike Les Misérables, which was a heavy show with so much emotion, Guys and Dolls is pure musical comedy. It has plenty of snappy, light songs but also a couple of standard Broadway ballads.
“The kids have had fun with it, which is important,” Hennessey said. “We all want to present a good show, but the journey is important as well.”
The show, first produced on Broadway in 1950 and the fifth-longest running Broadway musical of the 1950s at 1,200 performances, evolved partially out of Damon Runyon’s short story “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown.” In this so-called “Musical Fable of Broadway,” the high-minded lowlifes and spunky do-gooders of Runyon’s world come colorfully alive in Masterson, the bet on anything gambler; Detroit, the organizer of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York who is harassed by New York City cop Lt. Brannigan as Brannigan attempts to shut down the crap game and who bets Masterson that he cannot take the next girl he sees to Havana and fall in love with him; Miss Sarah Brown, who leads the Save-A-Soul Mission and is the next girl Masterson sees and does indeed go to Havana and fall in love with him; and Miss Adelaide, the main attraction at the Hot Box nightclub whose psychosomatic perpetual cold originates from her being engaged to Nathan for 14 years, the other gamblers, the other girls at the Hot Box and the other workers at the Save-A-Soul mission.
While many people nowadays consider the show to be dated and even antifeminist, Hennessey doesn’t see it that way at all.
“Both Adelaide and Sarah are very strong characters and I think that should be emphasized in the show and in society,” he said. “These women drive the show. The men are important as well, but both women get what they want. By the way, the men do as well but they just don’t realize it.”
Neither of the two girls in the female lead roles, both of them sophomores, feel that the show is antifeminist either.
Asked what it is about the character of Adelaide that she likes the most, Quinn answered succinctly.
“I think she’s just kind of like me,” said Quinn, who was in shows in Middle School and was in the ensemble last year. “She knows what she wants. She’s ditzy at times, but she’s not dumb. She’s very smart and she has her wits about her. She’s with her fiancé of 14 years and he won’t marry her. She knows what she wants and she’s establishing what she wants.”
Gabrielsen sees elements of Sarah in herself and elements of herself in the character.
“Sarah is very smart,” Gabrielsen said. “She’s knows what she’s doing. She’s got this almost child-like innocence about her. I really like how dedicated she was to what she believes in and how she won’t change that for anybody. I think it’s really important for her as a character but also for me to learn. It’s been a really fun experience to get to play with that. I really enjoyed her character. She’s very closed off and you can just see her open up during the show and I think that’s really lovely to see that happen.”
Of the four leads, Gabrielsen is the newest to theatre since last year’s Les Misérables was her first time ever being in a show and now Sarah is her first lead role.
“The first rehearsal was nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was so anxious. I’m honestly really proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I feel a lot more comfortable being on stage now, a lot more confident in my abilities and I have really grown to love the aspects of theatre, performing and being able to step out of myself and become my character. It’s really awesome.”
Guys and Dolls also marks the 50th musical performed by HF-L students, although Bye Bye Birdie in 2020 was never performed for an audience because COVID forced schools to shutter and go to remote learning about a week before the show opened.
“The 50th is a nice milestone,” said retired HF-L high school instrumental teacher Mark Borden in a text message informing the newspaper of the fact. Borden played in the pit orchestra when he was a student at HF-L, then conducted many of the shows when he returned to HF-L as a teacher and played in the pit orchestra for last year’s Les Miserables after he retired and will play trombone in this year’s show. “It’s a lot of great memories for the kids.”
The great memories is one of the reasons that the musical theatre and drama program at HF-L is important to the students involved in them but the students cite others as well.
“For me, I think it brings joy and bonds us all together,” Quinn said. “I’ve made such good friends throughout this musical theatre part. I love to sing and I love to dance and I love the way I can express that and I think that musical theatre is the best way I can.”
Tuller says that music theatre is important to him because of the atmosphere and the ability to explore a character.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “In musical theatre, you get to explore things you never get to in real life. Being able to explore a different character is a gratifying experience. It’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Getting to do that in high school, especially as a senior, means the world.”
Howard said the musical theatre experience has been important for him because it is something he is good at and he finds that he gets a lot of joy from it and if he gives other people a fun two-hour show and he enjoys it, then it’s all for the best.
For the same reason, it was important for him and, he feels for others, to have been able to do Les Misérables last year and Guys and Dolls this year when this group of seniors missed their freshman year after rehearsing for Bye Bye Birdie but were never able to put it on due to COVID.
“Having this back not only for the people who want to view it but for us is amazing,” he said. “It’s a sense of relief, I think for a lot of people. Yeah, it’s a little stressful but people come here, they enjoy it here. It’s an escape from, I don’t know, from homework or other stress, you just focus on this. It’s a pretty tight group as far as the cast goes and the crew although it’s reasonably large, it’s very tight. It’s very nice. I think that just having this space where you have a common interest and there’s just so many different types of people here, it’s really something special.”