If you don't know the background of the show, which was adapted from a short story written by famed sportswriter Damon Runyon in the 1940s, it features a pair of dice-playing, horse race-betting, number-running hoodlums in Zoot suits chasing after a showgirl and a woman who runs a religious mission.
"It's ridiculous," said Mariah Moody, who is the program director for Inside Broadway, a New York-based firm that helps local high schools produce Broadway musicals. "Everything about it is stupid. But it's musical theater at its finest."
However, there's something about "Guys and Dolls" that draws you to it. Catchy tunes include "Luck Be a Lady," and "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat." There are characters like Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, Miss Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide, Big Julie and Nicely Nicely. It's a fun show, an upbeat show, even if the storyline is just downright, er, dumb.
"Guys and Dolls" has been a popular show that spans the test of time. The show was portrayed on the silver screen in the 1950s by a singing Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. It regained steam in the 1980s and '90s, when it had an extended stay on Broadway, making stars out of Tom Wopat and Nathan Lane - the latter of whom is a Jersey City native who changed his name from Joe Lane to Nathan because he loved the show so much.
Breaking into song So when time came for Weehawken High School to put on its annual musical production, with the help of the talented people at Inside Broadway, there was no question that "Guys and Dolls" would be a perfect choice.
"It is a show that does have a lot of style," said Tyrone Robinson, a Weehawken resident and professional actor and director who is directing the show upon assignment from Inside Broadway. "We gave the kids some preliminary information of how to approach the show. But to the kids' credit, they went home and did their homework and made things easier. It's not the easiest show in the world to do, but it is fun and the kids are giving their all."
The Weehawken High School production of "Guys and Dolls" will be performed at the school's auditorium on Friday and Saturday nights, beginning at 7:30 p.m. There is free transportation available before and after the show, so Weehawken residents are encouraged to view the bus transportation information located on fliers and online at www.weehawken.nj-us.org.
Student comments The students have all enjoyed themselves in rehearsals, preparing for the show.
"It's been a blast," said freshman Vicky Camporeale, who is playing the role of Miss Adelaide in the show. "I was familiar with the show, because I have the movie at home on DVD. I watched it over and over to try to get her accent down."
Miss Adelaide has a popular number in the show, entitled "Adelaide's Lament," where she sings with a deep Brooklyn accent, "A poyson could develop a cold."
"I'm trying to sing 'poyson' instead of person," Camporeale said. "I've been watching how she [the original Adelaide on stage and screen was the vivacious Vivian Blaine] did it and how much she is bubbly and in love with Nathan. I'm happy and bubbly, too, but just not like her."
Grace Thompson is a Weehawken senior who has the role of Sarah Brown, the missionary who wins the heart of Sky Masterson, portrayed in this production by Andrew Petrie but made famous by the immortal Brando.
The whole idea of being on stage is new to Thompson, because she is originally from a small town in Louisiana called Covington and only transferred to Weehawken High this year. Thompson, who is a lot like Miss Sarah Brown because her father is a Baptist preacher and pastor in Louisiana, never saw "Guys and Dolls" before getting the role.
"I heard of it, but never watched the movie or saw the show," said Thompson, who now lives in Weehawken with her mother and stepfather. "I definitely can relate to Miss Sarah, but I'm definitely not like her - not that it's a bad thing."
Thompson said that she has sung in public before in church, but never gave performing on stage a thought, until one of her friends encouraged her to audition.
"I was very shocked when I got the part," Thompson said. "I used to sing at the old church, but this is totally different. It's actually been a good experience and I'm really looking forward to it. Everyone's been really nice. I've had a lot of fun."
The professionals who are working with the students are impressed with how talented the students are.
"What sets this production apart is that these kids really have no formal choral training," said Rob Spring, who is the musical director hired by Inside Broadway to do this production. "Most of these kids never had a chance to sing anything except 'Happy Birthday' out loud before."
Robinson, who has called Weehawken his home for the last six months, especially requested to be assigned to the Weehawken kids, after hearing such positive reviews from the last two shows that Inside Broadway did with them over the last two years, namely "Little Shop of Horrors," and "Smokey Joe's Café." Robinson is currently acting in two off-Broadway plays, "Robeson," and "Jamaica."
"I've been very blessed and fortunate to work with these kids," he said. "They've really blown us away with their ability to pick up things, like the songs, the dances. Their character and their attitude have been amazing. There's a lot of good talent here, and that's the thing that impresses me the most."
Robinson said that he was grateful for the support he has received from Weehawken Principal Peter Olivieri and the Township Council, which is sponsoring the event.
Moody, who oversees about 40 to 60 programs throughout the school year, mostly in New York, agreed that the kids are talented.
"What's great about Weehawken is that there is a lot of support from everyone," Moody said. "From the school's administration and the town, and the teachers. It's been amazing. The kids are great and put in 110 percent every night. It's unbelievable how far these kids have come in such a short time."
Moody said that she plans on being back in Weehawken again in 2006.
"It's now become one of our traditions," Moody said. "It's one of our favorite programs. If they'll have us, then we'll be glad to come back."