As a teenager, Steve Steele was in the ensemble of his high school’s production of “Guys and Dolls.” It was the first play he ever acted in.
Now, more than 30 years later, Steele returns to the “Guys and Dolls” cast in the Other Voices production of the 1950s musical. But this time, he’s the star.
“It’s neat all of these years later to come back full circle and be able to play the lead,” says Steele, a software engineer who lives in Jefferson.
Steele plays Sky Masterson, a New York City gambler with a reputation for betting on just about anything. Sky’s latest wager comes from another high-stakes gambler, Nathan Detroit, who needs $1,000 to rent out the Biltmore Garage for his latest crap game. Nathan wagers that Sky can’t convince the saintly Sarah Brown, head of the Save-a-Soul mission, to go out with him.
Sky works his charm and eventually wins Sarah over. But their blossoming romance is threatened when Nathan, unable to book the Biltmore, wants to use Sarah’s mission as the location of his crap game.
The show was adapted into a movie starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando in 1955 and has gone on to have numerous reprisals on Broadway.
When the Other Voices production of “Guys and Dolls” opens tomorrow night, Steele won’t be the only one experiencing a full circle moment. Many of the “guys and dolls” in director Susan Thornton’s cast have worked together in the past.
“We kind of brought all of these people back together,” says Thornton. “It was almost like a reunion ... people would walk into rehearsal saying, ‘I haven’t seen you in years.’”
Thornton is the director of Other Voices, the theater branch of Dance Unlimited at the Performing Arts Factory that holds dance and theater classes for students ranging in age from two to 18.
When Thornton and musical director Donna Grim settled on “Guys and Dolls” for the summer production, Thornton admits she already had members of her cast in mind.
“Some people have done the roles before,” Thornton says. “This is a dream cast for me as a director.”
Thornton has worked with Steele several times over the last 30 years on productions like “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and as a part of the Fredericktowne Players and the Octorian Theater Company. He says when Thornton came to him with the opportunity to be a part of “Guys and Dolls,” it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I just couldn’t say no,” Steele says. “There was no way I would say no ... it gave me the chance to work with people I really adore.”
Some of those people include Jeff Davis, who played Felix Unger to Steele’s Oscar Madison in the Way Off Broadway production of “The Odd Couple,” and Bruce Kelly, a trained EMT and fellow cast member of Steele’s in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” who tended to Steele’s broken nose during a fight scene gone wrong.
“You know you can trust them,” says Steele of his castmates. “You know they’re going to be there for you.”
Not all of the actors are seasoned performers. Some students from Dance Unlimited also have roles in the show, as well as teens and adults from other schools.
“It’s really a great blend bringing the new with the experienced actors,” Thornton says.
One of the actors making her first appearance on stage in an Other Voices production is Jessica Cummings, 30, in the role of Sarah Brown. Cummings is a music teacher at Oakdale High School and one of Thornton’s former students. At the time, she was Jessica Parsley and a participant in Dance Unlimited’s theater camp.
When the curtain goes up Friday night, Thornton, too, will have her own full circle moment.
“It’s fabulous,” she says. “I can remember her as a little girl and to be able to see her on stage is great.”