By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Between the Save a Soul Mission and the mob, there's drama aplenty in “Guys and Dolls” — but that's only the half of it.
This big show, pulsing with a 20-piece orchestra, wily mobsters and Hot Box Girls, opens tonight at last.
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave., and this first performance is family night, with all seats at $13.
And as usual with Port Angeles Light Opera Association musicals, it's a fast and furious run. After tonight are just five more shows: this Saturday and next Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19, at 7:30 p.m. and matinees this Sunday and next Saturday, July 20, at 2 p.m.
But “Guys and Dolls” wasn't supposed to be the PALOA's summer production at all.
The plan was to bring “Grease,” that high school musical, to the stage July 12-20. Director Richard Stephens began casting last spring.
Much to his chagrin, he found out its licensing fees were far more costly than other musicals. So Stephens and the PALOA board went shopping for another show.
Amid the sea of possibilities, “Guys and Dolls” caught Stephens' eye. Then Frank Loesser's songs — “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat,” “Sue Me,” “A Bushel and a Peck” — reeled him in.
Next thing his “Grease” cast knew, they were in the Tony Award-winning tale of New York City's underworld, a highly unlikely love story complete with a trip to Havana.
“Originally, I was excited about 'Grease,'” said actor Kyle Sholinder of Port Angeles. But when he was recast as Society Max, a snappily dressed dude in “Guys and Dolls,” he decided this was pretty darned cool after all.
The saga, set in 1950, is “intensely romantic,” added Stephens. We see the righteous Sarah Brown (Carissa Bowlby) and professional gambler Sky Masterson (Dalton Williamson) falling in love despite their differences, and we watch Nathan Detroit (Danny Willis) and Miss Adelaide (Alaynna Little), still tangling after being engaged for 14 years.
Detroit, as theater lovers know, runs “the oldest, established, permanent, floating crap game in New York” while his long-suffering fiancee, the star singer at the Hot Box Club, has about had it with waiting for him to set a date.
Sarah, meanwhile, is determined to rid New York's streets of sin. Gambling is a big one, so you wouldn't think she would participate in a bet involving Masterson.
But since this is a wild ride of a love story, she does. Swept off to Cuba with this cool high roller, she has some new experiences.
“Guys and Dolls” is about “the battle of the sexes,” Stephens said. “People will see themselves in one of these couples.”
The production has brought some fresh faces to the Port Angeles stage, Stephens noted. The gangsters and Hot Box girls — burlesque dancers in short gold getups — are a flock of young actors. At the same time, Don Scott and Stephens himself, who plays the mobster Big Jules, are theater veterans.
Back in 1994 when PALOA first did “Guys and Dolls,” Scott portrayed Detroit. This time he's Sarah's grandfather Arvide Abernathy, while his real-life grandson Daylin Scott plays gambler Benny Southwest.
This cast, Stephens said, has “had to work so much harder with all of the changes and drama leading up to doing this show . . . yet they have risen to the challenge,” even embraced it.
He added that orchestra conductor James Ray, vocal director Stephanie Clark and choreographer Anna Unger have their players, singers and dancers in sharp shape.
“They're like chained up horses,” said Stephens, “just bursting to get out and show what they can do.”
Tickets to “Guys and Dolls” are $21 for section A and $17 for section B at Northwest Fudge & Confections, 108 W. First St., Port Angeles, and at the Sequim Gym, 145 E. Washington St. in Sequim.
Reservations can also be made with a $2 credit-card processing fee at www.PALOA.org.