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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Newly engaged couple IRL play love interests in Guys & Dolls

The Arts Club Theatre Company presents Guys & Dolls at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage from May 16 to June 30.

It is often said that theatre reflects life. While perhaps not quite what is meant, the newly engaged couple in real life, actors Chelsea Rose and Jonathan Winsby, play love interests Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Guys & Dolls.

The dancing’s fantastic, the singing is fantastic, and even if you’ve seen it before, you haven’t seen it like this. – Chelsea Rose

First appearing on Broadway in 1950, Guys & Dolls ran for over 1,200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1951. Numerous revivals of the musical have gone on to win additional awards over the years.

And now, nearly 75 years after it first appeared on stage, Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company is bringing the Broadway musical to life on its Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage from May 16 to June 30.

Set in the bustling streets of 1950s New York City, Guys & Dolls follows gambler Nathan Detroit as he tries to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town while the authorities breathe down his neck. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they’ve been engaged for fourteen years. Nathan turns to fellow gambler Sky Masterson for the money, and Sky ends up chasing the straight-laced missionary, Sarah Brown, as a result.

In this Q&A, we find out more from Rose and Winsby about this musical that features such classic songs as Luck Be a Lady and Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.

This interview has been edited.

Have either of you ever done a production of this classic show before? How well did you know it before being cast?

Chelsea: I didn’t know Guys and Dolls very well at all. I knew the music from it, but I’d never seen the show. So, coming into this show, I came in with zero knowledge and expectations. I’m very excited to be playing the role, but I did not know this show beforehand. I just somehow skipped over it. The first show I ever did was The Pajama Game, so I do like the old stuff.

Jonathan: So, the exact opposite for me. I don’t think anybody can avoid it when you’re 20 years old, singing Luck Be A Lady at some point. So, you know that song, you know the show. I’ve seen a bunch of productions of it, but I’ve never been in it, so I’m very excited to get to play Sky at this point.

You guys are a couple in real life. I wonder that because your two characters go through such a love-hate relationship in the show it must be almost like therapy for you.

Chelsea: It’s really fun to play those heated moments because we don’t get that heated in arguments at home. We’re in a pretty even-keel partnership. Being able to get mad at each other on stage is kind of therapeutic in a way. It’s actually strengthened our relationship if anything.

Madeleine Suddaby, Josh Epstein, Chelsea Rose, Jonathan Winsby, and Tenaj Williams in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Guys & Dolls Photo by David Cooper.
Madeleine Suddaby, Josh Epstein, Chelsea Rose, Jonathan Winsby, and Tenaj Williams in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Guys & Dolls Photo by David Cooper.

What is your favourite song to sing from the show? 

Jonathan: It has to be Luck Be A Lady. It’s so iconic, and there are 12 different guys on stage, and they’re all frozen while you get a chance with a single spotlight to start singing. It’s fantastic. So, I have to go with that, even though we have two very lovely duets that are also very fun.

Chelsea: I really enjoy singing I’ve Never Been In Love Before. It’s a pretty beautiful experience. But I also like one of my big solo songs, If I Were a Bell, which is just so much fun.

Jonathan: I’m in it, but I don’t say a thing, and it’s so much fun because I get to watch her have this big, huge moment, and we get to do a little bit of a dance together and whatnot. But it’s just so much fun to watch her just navigate this beautiful song and she’s so good. It’s just wonderful to get a chance to be so close, and no audience member will ever get the best seat in the house that I get to have. And I get to watch you do that. So nice.

If I’m not mistaken, your characters don’t have any big dance numbers. Is Guys & Dolls not a big dance musical?

Jonathan: It’s not for us, but it is a huge dance musical for everyone else. There is a lot of dancing happening, and it is fantastic because we’re seeing like 12 men doing these huge crap shoot dances, and it’s very exciting. We do have a lot of just movement for the two of us and a couple of dance numbers, but really, we’re pretty static compared to the others.

Chelsea: It’s that Golden Age thing, where you had the stars that were the singers and the romantic leads, and then you had the comedic leads that could go out and whiz-bang, pop, do everything else. They can make you laugh, they can dance circles around everybody else, and we get to sit there and be like, yeah, but we fell in love. We have a nice, heartwarming story, but this musical is so wonderful, and they have two really strong couples, and everything works out for the best. And that’s what I really do love about this show.

Is it Adelaide who gets the big dance numbers? You must have times when you just sit back and watch. 

Chelsea: We do have a couple of numbers where we get to do that, and it’s quite fun. Again, I love watching the men dance. It’s rare to have that many men in a musical in Vancouver, so I love watching that, and I love Luck Be A Lady.

The Stanley stage has a challenge because it doesn’t have a huge wing space. And you travel to Cuba in the show, so there must be set pieces that you have to hide somewhere. 

Jonathan: There are a lot of flies that are going to be coming in and out, and this is a very sparkly Broadway 1950s set with over 3,000 light bulbs. It is going to be the most razzle dazzling thing you’ve seen in a while. And a lot of pieces are able to stay on stage for all of it and transform into different pieces. But it is going to be tight backstage.

Chelsea: You’re not wrong. There is some imagination required. A table in one sequence might turn into something like a chair. And, you know, there will be a little bit of theatrical magic. But, for the most part, you’ll know we’re in Havana pretty quickly.

Chelsea, tell people who have seen Guys & Dolls before why they should come see this production.

Even if you’ve seen this show before, you are going to be shocked and awed by the razzle-dazzle of it, by the love characters that are in it, and the number of amazing chorus members that just light up the stage. The dancing’s fantastic, the singing is fantastic, and even if you’ve seen it before, you haven’t seen it like this.

Jonathan, tell people who have never seen Guys & Dolls before why they should come see it.

If you want a laugh, if you want a little bit of a tear, you need to see this show. And, if you want to see a show on a Vancouver stage unlike any you’ve ever seen before, you’re going to want to come see the show. It’s going to blow your mind literally. And your eyeballs. Your brain will love it. Your heart will explode. It’ll be amazing.

The Arts Club Theatre Company presents Guys & Dolls at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville St, Vancouver) from May 16 to June 30. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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