‘Guys and Dolls’ pushes cast, crew out of comfort zones as they collaborate on a winning musical production

Zoe Manousos, Kate Michel, and Ananya Pandit

The magnetic atmosphere of 1930s New York is coming to the Algonquin stage as the cast and crew prepares to perform the classic Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls.” Three performances will be held at 7 p.m. in the auditorium on November 17, 18 and 19, with tickets selling for $10 for students and $15 for adults. 

The musical stars senior Daniel Boush, sophomore Viviana Lebel, senior Nathan Spadafora and senior Aidan Kane. The cast and crew, co-directed by science teacher Brian Kelly and theater teacher Paul D’Agostino, is working hard to put the entire show together in the weeks leading up to the performances. 

“Right now, everyone has learned what they needed to learn, but nothing is in order,” Lebel, who plays Miss Adelaide, said. “No one really knows how it all works together. We get the idea, but we’re going to start to do full act run-throughs and full cast rehearsals.”

For Kane, who plays the lead role of Sergeant Sarah Brown, some of the most chaotic rehearsals became her favorite part of the entire process because of their unique ability to build relationships among the cast.

“I always reflect on it during tech week or during the show when it all comes together,” Kane said. “You had no idea that you created these bonds, and you can step back and say, wow, this is amazing.”

This year has been unique for Kane due to playing a lead role.

“In all the shows I’ve been in in the past, I’ve been in ensemble work,” Kane said. “With my character this year, it’s been a little different, since I’m involved with a very specific number of people.”

Kane isn’t the only one adjusting to the experience of being a leader. Having a lead role as a sophomore is new and nerve-wracking territory for Lebel, but she soaks up every second, even during the challenges that come with a lead role.

“I’ve never had a lead so it’s a lot more content, and I’ve never acted in a musical,” Lebel said. “My thing was always dancing and singing, but more background stuff.”

As for the musical itself, Lebel has been enjoying the combination of the layers of themes and ideas intertwined within the music and the storyline. 

“Everyone was confused about why it was chosen,” Lebel said. “It’s a classic show so I really like it, but it has many outdated ideas. Now that we’re getting into it, it’s more about female empowerment and moving past those ideas. The music is great and there is a lot of humor and there are a couple of different plots that all tie together but [the characters] don’t really know it.” 

The producers purposely chose “Guys and Dolls” knowing it would force the actors to work on something outside of their comfort zones. 

“We are really trying to expose our students to what theater is, where it came from and the history of it,” Kelly said. “How we can take an archaic title like ‘Guys and Dolls,’ something that sounds bad by today’s standards, and how we can really show that these shows have themes that persist, that people relate to and that are really current, and have a lot of fun with a different genre.”

“Seussical,” the musical from last fall, was drastically different from “Guys and Dolls” in terms of the music, acting and overall themes embedded in the musical. 

We are really trying to expose our students to what theater is, where it came from and the history of it,

— Science teacher, co-director Brian Kelly

“Last year we did a very modern show, which was based on Dr. Seuss, and it had a lot of central themes that had to do with acceptance of individuals and how everybody has their own personality, and learning to appreciate that and accept all of that,” Kelly said. “This year, it’s different from a thematic musical. This year we’re doing a classic book musical. We think about doing this show in much the same way that English classes would read a classic book.”

Despite the challenges that present themselves in adjusting to a musical like “Guys and Dolls,” Kane finds that it hasn’t been quite as hard to rehearse for as “Seussical.”

“Last year, ‘Seussical’ was all over the place because it was just such a difficult show,” Kane said. “And I feel like people this year have this show a little bit closer to their heart. It’s just a show that’s easy to love.”

As a senior, this show has caused some bittersweet feelings for Kane after participating in the theater productions for all four of her high school years.

“I feel like I’ve grown as an actor in each one of those shows,” Kane said. “But I’m also sad because this is the last time I’m going to be working with the directors and some of these people. But I know I’m leaving the theater department in good hands, so I’m excited to see what comes next.”

The pit orchestra, which accompanies the performers during the acts, is led by Fine and Performing Arts teacher Eric Vincent. The group rehearses every Tuesday for multiple hours after school.

“I like the music for this musical,” junior baritone saxophone player Juliana Oyola said. “However, I do think any show music is challenging.”

According to Oyola, performing as a part of a group is much less daunting than performing solo, something she has experienced as a musician since the fifth grade. 

“I’m just very excited to see how it all pulls together in the end,” Oyola said. “My favorite part is being included in a community.”

The set design team is co-headed by junior Autumn Stewart and senior Alexander Reineke. Their job is to help design, build and paint the set, as well as get an overall view of the musical from an artistic standpoint. 

“This year is a much more mature musical,” Stewart said. “It’s a lot more toned down in the colorfulness, but it’s arguably easier to work on than ‘Seussical’ was.”

The stage management team consists of senior Ben Schanzer, junior Adam Guggina and Stewart. Members of the team go to at least one rehearsal a week, take notes and help direct the backstage, such as the flow of props. 

“I love seeing how the show comes together,” Stewart said. “Especially the backstage crew, how they get everything set and ready.”

Props master senior Camilly Fernandes prepares for the show by choosing, designing, making or acquiring all of the necessary props. She then organizes the props backstage and assigns them to people who use them.   

Though Fernandes does not perform in the show, she finds herself noticing time being a big crunch factor throughout the whole process, especially as the curtains open in just about a week. 

“Time is essential and we don’t really have a lot of it,” Fernandes said. “We started the process about four weeks before we open the show so it doesn’t leave us a lot of time to do everything that we need to do to get all of the props ready.”

For the producers of the show, collaborating and trying to merge all of their ideas can be challenging, but they love the challenge.

“With three sets of directors, the choreographer, the stage directors and the vocal director, one of the biggest challenges with putting together a production is just aligning all of our own visions and then compromising with each other to get a show that is representative of each of our talents and our unique skills,” Kelly said. “We all have a very different skill set and a different way of looking at it, so we have to really come together.”

Though the producers are allowed to extend rehearsal times, they understand that everyone has other activities they need to complete each night after their three-hour afternoon rehearsals. 

It’s interesting to revisit it twenty-two years later in the same room. Both triggering and interesting,

— Theater teacher, co-director Paul D'Agostino

“Honoring them as performers and as students is really important,” vocal director Olivia Goliger said. 

The musical itself has history at Algonquin.  

“I was in the show when I was at Algonquin and Ms. Goliger’s mom was the choreographer,” D’Agostino said. “This show does have Algonquin roots. There’s a lot of nostalgia in this process for us all. It’s interesting to revisit it twenty-two years later in the same room. Both triggering and interesting.” 

For Kelly, the most enjoyable part of the process is seeing the musical come to life. 

“I’ve always really enjoyed the idea of taking something off of a page and putting it on the stage so that people can see our interpretations and so that actors can get the chance to have fun with characters,” Kelly said.