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2nd Star’s Guys and Dolls

How a classic continues to charm

Nathan Detroit, Harry the Horse, Dave the Dude, The Seldom Seen Kid and Benny Southstreet sprang from the imagination of Broadway-bedazzled newspaperman Damon Runyon, who died in 1946. His stories made it to Broadway as Guys and Dolls in 1950.
    That’s 66 years ago. Yet it keeps turning up.
    2nd Star Productions is about to do it again.
    Why? Is it the names? The story? Or what?
    I put my questions to 2nd Star’s director and producer Nathan Bowen.
    “The iconic, recognizable names in the show are certainly central to its appeal. But a lot of the credit goes to the story,” says Bowen, who also plays Benny Southstreet in the latest revival, opening May 27. “It’s a classic love story, taking us from the bustle of Times Square to the dance clubs of Havana to the sewers of New York City, showing the great lengths a guy will go to when in love.”
    Bowen fell in love with Guys and Dolls as a kid in Calvert County
    “I grew up watching the movie musical with Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine, and to me it has always represented Broadway at its best,” he recalls.
    Characters played in the film by Brando and Sinatra are gangsters, by Simmons and Blaine, dolls. Together, they make up the unlikeliest of Manhattan pairings: a high-rolling gambler and a puritanical missionary, a showgirl dreaming of the straight-and-narrow and a crap game manager who is anything but.
    In the two-and-a-half-hour musical romantic comedy, 30 take the stage, each one in original, colorful and stylized period costumes by 2nd Star’s award-winning costumer Linda Swann.
    “Damon Runyon’s characters continue to delight and fascinate, popping from page to stage to charm us,” says director Debbie Barber-Eaton.
    “And what a score,” adds Barber-Eaton, who has acted Miss Adelaide, the showgirl with a heart of gold. “The musical numbers run the gamut from brassy to tender, yet they all fit together beautifully.”
    Frank Loesser wrote music and lyrics, including, Bowen said, the “hilarious” Adelaide’s Lament, the “romantic” I’ll Know When My Love Comes Along, the “exuberant” If I Were a Bell, the “classic” Luck Be a Lady and the “rousing” Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.
    “The whole cast’s voices come together to echo through the rafters of All Saints Lutheran Church in Bowie, who allow us to rehearse there,” Bowen said.
    Actual performance are at Bowie Playhouse, one of the few community theaters with an orchestra pit, and 2nd Star takes full advantage of it.
    “Canned music can never fully compare to the big band sound that you need to pull off the tunes in the show,” Bowen says, “and with space for an orchestra we have assembled a terrific group of instrumentalists for Guys and Dolls.”
    2nd Star is an all-volunteer company, sustained by a small board with itinerant actors and production staff drawn by opportunity and the ­company’s reputation.
    “I have long admired 2nd Star,” says director Barber-Eaton, “and have hoped for years to work with this imaginative company.”
    Musical director, accompanist and conductor Sandy Greise, of Calvert County, has worked with the cast to make the terrific harmonies click and the brassy tunes jump.
    Choreographer Andrew Gordon, WATCH award-nominated for last fall’s The Music Man with 2nd Star, has revitalized early 1950s dance styles to, he says, “give a breath of fresh air to a timeless classic.”
    Guys and Dolls has a winning record at 2nd Stage.
    “We last did Guys and Dolls back in 2002. It was critically acclaimed and performed to sold-out crowds,” Bowen said.
    “We are first and foremost a community theater, and that means producing shows that the community wants to see,” Bowen says. “Many of the older, classic shows remain highly popular because of their superior writing, excellent music and accessibility to audiences of all ages.”

FSa 8pm, Su 3pm May 27-June 25 at the Bowie Playhouse at Whitemarsh Park, $22 w/discounts: ­; 410-757-5700; 301-832-4819