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Arts Collective Theatre Brings High Energy Music And Happiness With Guys And Dolls

Saturday October 21st, 2023, 8:31am


Photos: Gene Schilling

A local theatre company’s bringing dancing and dice to Windsor with its latest musical’.

Arts Collective Theatre’s (ACT) production of Guys and Dolls is closing out its two week run. Taking place at the Capitol Theatre (located at 121 University Avenue West,) the musical is continuing from its spirited opening night performance on October 13. Hoping to showcase their musical talents for audiences once again, the final two shows will take place tonight and tomorrow.

With its colourful characters, the infamous musical also fits in as ACT’s last for their ninth season.

“We started thinking about the show in 2022 when we planned our ninth season called ‘Life in colour,'” said ACT Vice President Moya McAlister. “We wanted to do a comedy, we haven’t done one before and Artistic Director Chris Rabideau wanted to challenge himself professionally along with the ACT team.”

Largely revolving around a moving game of craps, Guys and Dolls is told through intersecting stories. Focusing on a group of gamblers such as Big Julie (Flo Ndimubandi,) Sky Masterson (Gianluca Ieraci) and Nathan Detroit (Michael Rice,) the musical takes place in New York City. As the play progresses, their schemes eventually catch up with them as they interact with “dolls” like Sarah Brown (Jamie Brown-Hart) and Miss Adelaide (Avonlea Smith.)

Having opened on Broadway in 1950, it was necessary for ACT to update the musical while keeping its humour alive.

“We believe that people want to go see shows that make them happy,” said McAlister. “After COVID we felt that audiences want to leave a show feeling good. I don’t know if we’d call [presenting the older musical] a challenge but we wanted to update it and make it more relevant. We did this through casting, musical arrangements, set and costumes.”

As auditions were held in May, diversity was especially at the forefront of ACT’s mind.

“Diversity is very important to the ACT family,” said McAlister. “We try to be as inclusive as possible in all our productions, We will go out and seek people in Windsor-Essex if we feel there isn’t enough diverse representation in our cast.”

It was also important for ACT to cast local actors: Musical performances for Guys and Dolls were challenging and required lots of rehearsal, especially for its leads. Although a dance background was recommended, it wasn’t mandatory as the theatre company enjoys training new talent: When coming across actors who stand out, they typically work with them to ensure all are ready for opening night.

Starting at the end of May, rehearsals ran three times a week with one week breaks for four months. Beginning from music and character development, it included improv and comedic timing classes with Cristina Orlando. After that, things moved along to choreography and scene development. Cast members went through extensive dance technique classes with Leslie McCurdy as well. In addition, they continue with regular warmups to develop their strength and stamina even further.

As tech week got closer, things started coming into focus even more.

Photos: Gene Schilling

“Leading up to tech week, the cast met the orchestra under the direction of Ian Smith for a full day Sitzprobe,” said McAlister. “This is where the cast sits with the orchestra and sings through the whole show. Then we moved the set and costumes into the theatre and worked on lighting, flys and the next day the cast came in to start dress rehearsals on the stage. We moved into the theatre on October 6th.”

Considering the space they were working with, those involved knew the legendary theatre still had limitations. With those in mind and the musical’s relation to Broadway, Rabideau wanted a lot of lights. Echoing New York’s subway and several places in the city, the set had to be multifunctional to create circular spaces that evolved with each scene. Keeping it simple while elaborate, it made room for choreography and blocking. This also allowed them to ensure the set felt full and vibrant.

It’s something McAlister thinks worked perfectly.

“I think people will remember the amazing cast voices, the vibrant costumes, the elaborate set and lighting,” she said. “The live orchestra will get them moving and grooving as they leave the theatre. It’s a perfect date night or a night out with friends.”

It’s a sentiment the director seconds while also praising what lies at the show’s core.

“The songs are joyous and memorable and people relate to the relationships in the story,” said Rabideau. “It’s a comedy and there are a lot of jokes which audiences seem to love.”

Remaining tickets for Guys and Dolls can be purchased online. Saturday October 21’s performance begins at 8:00pm while the show on Sunday October 22nd starts at 2:00pm.  Tickets are $20 each for ages 14 and under, $32 apiece for students and seniors (60+) and $35 for adults.

ACT will soon put on their next North of 50 Seniors Production, The Social Exchange. A Youth Creative Production of Newsies Jr And community production of RENT will follow. Information about ACT’s 2024 season (10 Seasons of Love) and the 10th anniversary itself can be found at the theatre company’s website.

Those interested can also follow ACT on Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter.)

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