It’s an era of lady-like manners and the finest of gentlemen: Guys in suits, hats and shiny shoes, cleanly shaven with slicked hair and moustaches; ladies in skirts and dresses, wrap sweaters, pantyhose and high heel shoes. In the nightclubs, these fine gentlemen leer and cheer at giggly, air-headed and scantily-clad dancers shakin’ their daisies.
Tasteless and trashy? Not if you’re performing in Guys and Dolls … as I am. Female and male roles in this show are stereotypical and over the top. On the one hand, I’m sure my granny would be proud; on the other, I might hesitate to invite my mother. Behind the scenes, the G&D cast has joked about a restricted version, starring Stephen Dunbar as Miss Adelaide … not that Bronwyn Jones isn’t absolutely made for the part, of course, but “any female role that’s so completely over-the-top simply must have been made for a drag queen,” said Stephen. “All the more funnier then, when played by an actual woman,” I responded.
Playing a guy, I get to leer at the young girls and prostitutes; when playing a woman in several scenes, I get to shake my bootie at the guys in a variety of fashions and settings. More than I ever could have imagined, it’s been a real gas to take these roles to the max.
In our marathon three-day tech last weekend, us dolls sat in the house of the theatre with our long, bare legs draped over the seats. We ogled and hollered at the gents in their suits and shiny shoes as they gave manly dance improvisations on stage in between scenes.
In the midst of 12 and 14-hour days at the theatre, we could have been popping our buttons. But instead, our sense of humour became enlarged and magnified. Watching the cast from a distance, one may have been reminded of a group of five-year-olds on too much sugar and not enough sleep.
The theatre is a timeless zone — what feels like eight in the evening turns out to be midnight. It’s a strange high of boredom, excitement, nervousness and exhaustion that one could only understand having experienced it for his or herself.
At the foot of the stage, Mr. Nicely-Nicely Johnson (James McCullough) lay sleeping — in costume — on his inflatable foamy and pillow. This was an improvement in sleeping arrangements. Back at our rehearsals in the Guild Hall, we were rehearsing a Broadway Street scene and there was James, draped over a series of stacked chairs — newspaper on his belly, hat over his face — takin’ a snooze. He wasn’t the only one caught napping, just the one with the most character.
Naps are necessary in these times. The consequence of sleep deprivation can lead to very dire circumstances in the course of a show. Take our first preview night, for example. Two actors and a musician thoughtlessly closed the door to the performers’ entrance while smoking outside in between appearances on stage. They had failed to see the sign inside the door stating that all doors would be locked during performances, cautioning performers against getting locked out.
I happened to be one of these thoughtless and illiterate actors. Unfortunately, I also happened to be wearing a long, red dress (with hip-length slit in the side), high heel shoes, and a bright red bathrobe over top. In this eccentric attire, I hobbled frantically and precariously over ice patches and up rock banks, banging profusely on both stage doors (to no avail) and finally all-out sprinted around the theatre to the lobby entrance. I got back stage, blew my nose, touched up my makeup and made my entrance.
So, sleep or no sleep, the show really must go on. I don’t know about all you fellow Guys and Dolls out there, but doing a run of 11 shows feels like some kind of unstoppable train you can’t get off of once you get on. I come home at eleven, unwind by two in the morning, wake up, start the whole thing all over again … and love every minute of it.