Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey Playhouse presents musical

In an evening where “girls” become “goyls” and “boys” become “fellas” along with other New York affectations, Whidbey Playhouse’s production of “Guys and Dolls” is marked by a dose of old-fashioned razzmatazz.

Director K. Sandy O’Brien, whose last musical undertaking was “Radio Gals,” at the Playhouse, first starred in “Guys and Dolls” at 15 years old. She played Adelaide, a chronically ill nightclub performer whose condition is worsened by being engaged to the same man for 14 years. Since then, O’Brien has acted in Broadway shows in New York and directed in Las Vegas.

“The space here is smaller than I’ve used before, so I had a different vision to make it fit,” O’Brien said.

With relatively low-key sets, the focus is mostly on the characters and story that make this Broadway fable so lovable.

“Guys and Dolls” is a musical comedy set in Damon Runyon’s mythical New York City. The heart of the story revolves around Nathan Detroit, a craps game organizer, who bets fellow gambler Sky Masterson that he can’t make the next girl he sees fall in love with him. The next girl he sees is Miss Sarah Brown, a “mission doll” who works for the Salvation Army. Complications arise and Masterson ends up falling in love.

O’Brien’s cast for the play is a mix-up of seasoned actors, high school students and acting newcomers. This is Marc Gonzalez’s second performance at the Whidbey Playhouse. The first was in “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” as Lt. Barney Greenwald. Gonzalez plays Nathan Detroit and in real-life, works as an operations officer for the Navy.

O’Brien said casting in Oak Harbor is challenging because her casts, often made up of Navy members, are sometimes re-stationed. But she said she has no trouble finding talent.

“It is challenging to cast for a musical, but the area has strong singers,” she said.

Detroit’s cheeky fiance, Adelaide, is played by Gail Liston from South Whidbey, whose knack for comic-timing is dead-on. There are also a few physical gags. In the song “Bushel and a Peck” she emerges in a risque chicken suit, and later wears a necklace of cooking utensils after an engagement party.

Liston’s husband is Brian Plebanek, who plays Sky Masterson.

Backstage, Plebanek said that compared with his last musical, “Caberet,” this is more fun than intense.

“This is the quintessential American musical. And with a week from opening, we’re forming an ensemble. We rely on each other,” Plebanek said.

“Boy do we ever. Some more than others,” Gonzalez interjected jokingly, hardly breaking character.

Oak Harbor High School freshman Geoff Worley has been acting since the womb, where he kicked in time to the musical “Annie.” At age six he had his acting debut. Playing gambler Benny Southstreet his performance is instinctive and relaxed, especially in those “kick-up-your-heels” dance moments.

“In this play, there’s a lot of heavy flare and hand movements. My character is a goofball. It’s fun,” he said.

In the next few days, O’Brien plans to speed up a few transitions, finish painting, fix costumes and cut time off the play before their opening this Friday.

“All that’s left are the cosmetics. The lipstick and rouge of the set so to speak,” she said.

“Guys and Dolls” will run June 6 to 28 and tickets are on sale now.

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