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Datebook: Golden Age Musical Still Shines

JImmy Chrismon
Laura Kennedy
Jimmy Chrismon, director of "Guys and Dolls," has worked with his cast and crew to help update some of the elements of the show.

If you didn't get enough romance on Valnetine's Day, try the new production of "Guys and Dolls," opening this weekend at the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts Theater.

That’s according to Jimmy Chrismon, director of the classic musical. 

“It just leaves you feeling good,” he declared. “It’s happy, it’s a toe-tapper, you know the songs, whether you realize it or not.” 

The songs, by Frank Loesser, include “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” “If I Were a Bell,” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” 

“It’s beautiful, fun music and the orchestrations are just gorgeous,” said Chrismon. “The characters are big and bold, the dance numbers are big and bold. It’s one of those plays where you leave excited and energized by what you saw.” 

“Guys and Dolls” was first staged in 1950. Chrismon and his cast worked to update some of the more misogynistic elements of the show.  For instance, originally, the character of Sky Masterson gets Sarah Brown drunk at a Havana nightclub. In Chrismon’s version, the female characters have more agency.  

“We have worked really hard to empower our women in the show. I think the women are smarter than the men in the show. In the Havana scene, typically it’s staged as Sky just feeding alcohol to her. We’ve switched it so she’s the one who is ordering, she’s consenting to having it, she knows what she’s doing.” 

“And our Hot Box Club girls, we’re embracing the burlesque and the empowerment of that. I talked to the designers from the very beginning that I wanted those women to be strong.”

stage set
Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
As students work to craft the set, it's obvious love is ready to bloom in "Guys and Dolls."

Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit got a 21st century tweak, as well. 

“It’s in terms of their reactions to what they’ve said and adjusting themselves in the moment and realizing that their women are strong, and they love them. And we don’t have to change each other.” 

“That’s kind of the theme of the show, you’ve got to celebrate love. When you love someone, you don’t really have to have all the reasons why.” 

“Guys and Dolls” runs Feb. 28 through March 6 at the ISU CPA.


Who would Chrismon cast in the new film version of "Guys and Dolls"? Find out here....


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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.