North Kingstown students present ‘Guys and Dolls’ this weekend
A cast and crew of more than 100 North Kingstown High School students will present a production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Guys and Dolls” at the school auditorium this weekend. The production’s company includes 11 students from Jamestown working onstage and behind the scenes.
The production is being directed by Norma Caiazza, who is the head of fine arts at North Kingstown. Caiazza’s department is responsible for producing the school’s annual musical. She previously directed a production of “Guys and Dolls” in 2003, and the current production is the 10th anniversary celebration of the event. The director cited a couple of reasons for returning to the musical this year.
“We had a good cast for it,” said Caiazza. “Every year when I pick what musical we’re going to do, I look at what students we have and I try to pick something that will compliment those voices.”
The other reason for the choice of “Guys and Dolls” is that Caiazza had surgery recently and was out of school for three months. As a result, she said that she wanted to do a show that she was comfortable with when she came back to work.
In addition to the musical produced each year at North Kingstown, a theater group called North Theater comprised of students produces straight plays each year in the fall and spring. Many of the students who participate in the musicals also participate in the dramas.
“Guys and Dolls” tells the story of male gamblers and the women they fall in love with. A wager between Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, where Masterson must win over Sarah Brown, leads to a host of complications.
The music for “Guys and Dolls” was written by Frank Loesser. The book is by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The show premiered on Broadway and ran for 1,200 performances. It won the Tony Award for best musical and was selected for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1951. However, when writer Burrows had problems with the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities, the selection was vetoed by the Columbia University trustees. No drama award was presented that year. A film version of “Guys and Dolls” starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando was released in 1955.
Caiazza said that the cast is required to sing in harmony while dancing, and that most of the male cast members haven’t danced before. She said this poses a problem for the boys.
“It’s always difficult for males to dance and sing,” said Caiazza. “We had a huge crop of gentlemen graduate over the last couple of years, so this year we didn’t have as many coming up in the ranks. I wanted to do a show that would be attractive to males, but is also very hard for males at the same time.”
Natalie Toland is a 15-yearold sophomore from Jamestown. Natalie has the role of Mimi in the play. She will also be one of the nightclub dancers, known as the Hot Box Girls. Natalie was a lead in last year’s musical production of “Footloose.” She said that after being a lead performer in recent productions, it was nice for her to work with an ensemble this time around.
“I haven’t had a lot of dancing roles,” she said. “Last year there was a little bit, but this is ensemble work and I think that’s really fun.”
Natalie plans to pursue a career in theater. She hopes to major in musical theater or dramatic arts. She said that people who come to the show will enjoy the great dancing and flashy costumes.
“It’s a really entertaining show,” she said.
Sam Hollister of Jamestown will be 17 years old next month. He is a junior who is the rehearsal pianist for the production. He also plays piano in the all-student pit orchestra. He has participated in the annual musical ever since his freshman year.
“A lot of the dances go really quick,” Sam said about this year’s musical. “You have to work hard to keep in time with the dancers. It’s definitely pulling together. There’s great singing and the dancing is spectacular.”
Sam said that much of the show’s music is heavily jazz based, making it a nice change of pace from previous years. He began playing the piano when he was 4 and is classically trained. Although he plans on pursuing a career in science or mathematics, music will always be a part of his life.
“It’s an excellent production,” Caiazza said. “North Kingstown has always produced wonderful shows. This is watching students at their height. Other than academic testing, this is where they can really shine. These kids have put in hundreds of hours. When they’re onstage it comes alive. It’s very touching.”
There will be four performances of “Guys and Dolls” in the North Kingstown auditorium this weekend. The show opens on Friday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. There will be two performances on Saturday, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and a matinee on Sunday at 3 p.m. will close the show. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. They are available at Baker’s Pharmacy.
Along with Sam and Natalie, Marcy Abong, Dana Larkin, Catherine Caswell, Alex Bew, Charlie Keen, Alexis Perez, Faith Goldsmith, Ellissa Barclay de Tolly and Elias Mitchell will represent Jamestown.