Guys and Dolls
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Illustration by Jody Hewgill

October 9 - 11 at 8 PM
October 12 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

newsletter | press release | program | photographs

From our Newsletter
The Inventor of Broadway
Damon Runyon is the man who invented Broadway.

He created works of fiction that featured the colorful personalities who called what became New York City's most famous street home. In his stories, Runyon transformed the area between Times Square and Columbus Circle into a world that was so irresistible that his biographer Jimmy Breslin acknowledged, "He...had everybody believing that his street, Broadway, actually existed."

But in a way Runyon's Broadway was real. His characters and stories are appealing and credible because Runyon lent so much of his own life to his writing. The tales he told were often fictionalized versions of his own encounters and adventures. Runyon loved to write about the seedy cultures and personalities that fascinated him. Dames and dice, hustlers and horses were the mainstays of a Runyon yarn.

None of Runyon's stories illustrates his style better than "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown," known to audiences today as the basis for the musical "Guys and Dolls." The story is of Nathan Detroit, the organizer of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York, who bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson that he can't make the next girl he sees fall in love with him. That "next girl" is Miss Sarah Brown, a pure-at-heart Salvation Army-type reformer. The bet is the perfect setup for a series of hilarious complications ... and it's also a page directly out of Damon Runyon's own life. Indeed, when the Musical Theatre Department presents "Guys and Dolls" October 9-12 at the Mendelssohn Theatre, audiences might be surprised how much the lore of the Great White Way was shaped by a single man's adventures, encounters, and by the amazing people who inspired his characters.

It is ironic, if not prophetic, that prototypical Manhattanite Albert Damon Runyan was born in Manhattan. Manhattan, Kansas, that is. His father was a storyteller, itinerant printer, and publisher of small town newspapers who moved the family to Pueblo, Colorado, when Damon was six in the hopes that the dry air might improve his wife's health. Within the year, though, she died. And in the years that followed Damon was often left on his own to roam free within the town's juvenile street life while his father spent his free time in bars. For Damon this proved to be the first instance when the underbelly of society played a major role in shaping his life.

Damon ran wild during this time and became an instigator in his friends' delinquency. He was known for teaching members of his East Side Gang to play hooky, swear and smoke, and was himself expelled from the public schools in the sixth grade. Following in his father's footsteps, he found work doing odd-jobs at Pueblo's Evening Press, eventually picking up writing assignments. By the age of 15 he had worked his way up to working as a full-fledged news reporter. When a typographical slip rendered his name "Runyon" he decided to keep it that way.

The next few years of Runyon's life were filled with diverse experiences. Like many young men in 1898 he lied about his age in order to enlist in the Army and fight in the Spanish-American War in 1898. After the war he worked for brief stints at papers in Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Trinidad, Pueblo, St. Joseph, MO, and Colorado Springs, all the while staying one step ahead of his editors who were looking to fire him for his scandalous habits. In 1905 Runyon moved to Denver and was hired as a sports reporter for The Denver Post.

His time in Denver laid the foundation for many of his greatest successes. In his years there he became a director of the Denver Press Club and published a few of his verses and short stories in national magazines including McClure's and Harper's Weekly. This led to his being hired by the New York American, a Hearst daily, in 1910. Here he created a column called "The Mornin's Mornin," that featured his stories about Broadway.

Initially assigned to cover New York's baseball teams, Runyon would tell the story of the game by focusing on the people who played, promoted and attended the games, rather than by giving the details of the competition itself. A regular at places like The Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, Madison Square Garden and the racetrack at Saratoga, Runyon's work at the American brought him face-to-face with a whole new group of men and women. He socialized with the likes of Al Capone, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth and Walter Winchell, but he also met the touts, shills, boosters, crooks and evangelists who came to be known as The Lemon Drop Kid, Last Card Louie, Harry the Horse, Dave the Dude and Miss Sarah Brown.

The identity of Runyon's characters were only faintly disguised in his stories, usually just to protect the guilty. His discretion in this area, however, earned him the trust of many personalities who would otherwise have been upset to see themselves portrayed in the press. In fact, many of them, once sufficiently masked, found his stories so much to their liking that they would invite him to sit in on accounts of the hijinks in which they regularly engaged.

Runyon's day-to-day life experiences also found their way into his stories. "Guys and Dolls" is a perfect example. The relationship between Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown was in part inspired by Runyon's own relationship with an attractive society reporter by the name of Ellen Egan who he had begun courting in Denver. While the attraction was mutual, Ms. Egan made it very clear that Runyon would have to quit his drinking and philandering ways before they could ever resolve their romance. And just like Sky Masterson, Runyon settled into a steady job and gave up drinking. Eventually Ellen was persuaded to come east, and in May, 1911, the couple were married.

Runyon's writing made him an important artist in his day. However, from roller derby (Runyon suggested to promoter Lou Seltzer in 1937 that more physical contact might spice it up) to his unique writing style (his uncanny ability to capture the strange dialects of the street, and his uncommon style of referring to past events in the present tense), Runyon's influences are still felt today. There isn't a writer today who doesn't have at least some inkling of what being "Runyonesque" means.
- Joel Aalberts

  Press Release
ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department presents the timeless musical comedy "Guys and Dolls" in a special five-performance run, October 9-11, 8:00 p.m., and October 11 and 12, 2:00 p.m. Performances are at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, located within the Michigan League at 911 North University, in Ann Arbor. The show is directed by Musical Theatre Department faculty member Mark Madama, who also directed last season's "Children of Eden."

Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $8 with ID. Tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League on the U-M Central Campus. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.

Based on the Broadway stories of Damon Runyon, "Guys and Dolls" tells the tale of Nathan Detroit, the organizer of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York, who bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson that he can't make the next girl he sees fall in love with him. That "next girl" is Miss Sarah Brown, a pure-at-heart Salvation Army-type reformer. Meanwhile, Nathan is having trouble with his own girlfriend, Adelaide, who after 14 years of dating is ready for marriage. Guys and Dolls is a cornerstone of the musical comedy stage that continues to delight audiences over 50 years after its Broadway premiere. Featuring the songs "Luck be a Lady" and "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat," this musical is the perfect balance of story, dance, music, and romance.

Written by composer/lyricist Frank Loesser, with a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, "Guys and Dolls" won a Best Musical Tony for the original 1951 production, and a second Tony for Best Revival for the 1995 production starring Faith Prince and Nathan Lane. The musical also received international attention thanks to the 1955 MGM motion picture adaptation featuring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra.

Joining Madama on the project is guest choreographer John MacInnis. As a performer, Mr. MacInnis' Broadway credits include "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Kiss Me, Kate," and "Guys and Dolls." He directed "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" for three years, and directed and choreographed "The Olympic Medals Plaza" at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Production designs for "Guys and Dolls" were completed by costume designer and UM faculty member Jessica Hahn ("Oklahoma!"), guest scenic designer J. Branson, who worked with Mr. Madama at the Music Theatre of Wichita, and lighting designer and UM design and production student Christian DeAngelis ("Resonant Rhythms").
- Joel Aalberts


Production Photographs
Coming Soon!

Runyonland Scott Gordon, Nick Gaswirth, Brian Hissong

Cathryn Basile as Sarah Brown and the Salvation Army Band Paul Wyatt as Nathan Detroit

The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York Jenni Barber as Miss Adelaide and the Hot Box Girls

David Baum as the MC of the Hot Box Jenni Barber

The Gamblers Jenni Barber and Paul Wyatt

Havana Garrett Miller as Sky Masterson and Cathryn Basile

Jenni Barber Cathryn Basile and Alex Michaels as Arvide Abernathy

Luck be a Lady Tonight The crap game in the sewer

Scott Gordon as Benny Southstreet and Stephanie Layton as Gerneral Cartwright Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat

Jenni Barber and Cathryn Basile Finale