Gangs of New York

Guys and Dolls give a glimpse of the underworld at the Victoria

By Tim Smith

Photo: D2D dancers David Baker (left) and Lauren Kampman in Guys and Dolls, May 19 and 20 at the Victoria Theatre

There’s an adage in the theatre that says you can’t keep a good show down. There’s another reference to a show having legs, which means it will be around for a long time. Both certainly hold true for the Dare to Defy production of Guys and Dolls. The company of gamblers, racetrack touts, and hustlers with names like Sky Masterson, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Harry the Horse, and Liver Lips Louis will hold court at the Victoria Theatre on May 19 and 20.

The show premiered on Broadway in 1950, and was based on two short stories—“The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure”—written by New York columnist Damon Runyon. It was an immediate hit, showed over 1,200 times, and won the Tony award for Best Musical. Since then, it has been revived several times  and has become a favorite of high school, college, and community theatre. Runyon had a knack for taking the people he’d meet on the Broadway beat and turning them into colorful characters with equally colorful nicknames. A few years after its Broadway debut, it became a big screen extravaganza starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, and Vivian Blaine.

Director Becki Norgaard says there were several reasons Guys and Dolls appealed to Dare to Defy when they were planning their season.

“We picked it because we have such a love for musical theatre, and this show is often considered the epitome of the art form,” she says. “It has lots of singing and dancing, and although on the surface the characters are pretty stereotypical, they are truly complex characters.

“We are presenting the show in the time period used in the original Broadway show. We felt like we wanted to do an homage to the original. In addition, the contrast between society in that time and in current time is fascinating. Without getting too political, the role of women in those days was pretty defined by society and there is a stark contrast to modern day. The most interesting part for me is how there seems to be a real nostalgia, for some, for this perceived simpler time. My other observation about this is, ask anyone who lived through a time, and nothing is ever really simpler. Time casts a rosy glow diminishing the truth of the times.”

The score by award-winning composer/lyricist Frank Loesser features some of his most memorable work. “A Bushel and a Peck,” “I’ll Know,” “Guys and Dolls,” “If I Were a Bell,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” and “Luck Be a Lady” all became part of the great American songbook.

“The score is definitely not easy and the choreography is challenging,” Norgaard says. “Our cast is superb, though, and handles all of these challenges. It is something to see, for sure.”

For Dare to Defy’s 2016-17 season, over 120 local artists were considered for parts.

“The talent in this show is amazing and includes some of our resident artists, people who have done several shows with us, people who have never done a show with us, and theatre students from Sinclair and Wright State University,” Norgaard says. “Top to bottom, the cast is incredible. Folks will not want to miss this show.”

Dare to Defy Productions is a nonprofit professional, non-equity theatre company, based in Dayton. Norgaard points out that the company’s goal is to provide stage experience for local performers and technicians.

“Our mission is to provide paid performing opportunities and nonperforming work for the talented artists in our local community,” she says. “We typically do six shows a season and although we do a lot of slightly edgy, youth-based shows, we always sprinkle in some classics. This proves our versatility and provides our audience with variety.”

“All of our shows have challenges because we only get in the venue a night or two before we open,” she adds. “We do not get a lot of tech time for lights and sound. We have to load in a whole set built offsite, put it up, rehearse on it for the first time, do one dress rehearsal, perform three times in two days, then take it all down. It is terrifying and exhilarating as the same time.”

Norgaard hopes that in addition to having an enjoyable theatre experience, the audience will take away a few other things.

“I would like them to feel like they have relived the original or the movie with a focus on characters,” she says. “I would like them to see that people are people and the same things that tempt people and bring them joy are not that different. Mostly, I would like them to see that society has evolved for the better and we shouldn’t give up that hard-earned progress to try and return to a time that wasn’t perfect, either.”

Guys and Dolls takes the stage Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 20, at 2 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. in downtown Dayton. Tickets range from $23.50-$53.50. For tickets and more information, please visit and or call 937.228.3630.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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