TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse Symphony Orchestra will tap into its theatrical side Sunday when it presents a full concert production of the musical “Guys and Dolls.”
“Concert form means there’s no dancing, minimal staging, minimal costuming,” said show director Rick Church, who is mounting the production with TSO conductor Kevin Rhodes. “It’s exciting because you get to relish in the music.”
The orchestra will accompany the NMC Grand Traverse Chorale and Chamber Singers and a cast of local and regional vocalists led by Jane Rhodes (Adelaide) and Lynne Church (Sarah Brown) of Traverse City, Scott Skiba (Sky Masterson) of Interlochen, and Paul Truckey (Nathan Detroit) of Marquette.
“These are all wonderful, talented people who could have careers anywhere,” said Rick Church, soloist Lynne Church's husband, and a long-time vocal coach in New York City. “Take Paul Truckey. He was seven years in (Broadway and National Tour productions of) ‘Les Miserables.’ He chose, like Lynne and I, to move to Michigan to be with family.”
Based on a short story by Damon Runyon, “Guys and Dolls” revolves around the "professional" and romantic complications of New York floating crap game organizer Nathan Detroit and his fellow gambler, Sky Masterson. When Nathan bets Sky that Sky can't charm the next girl Nathan sees — Save-a-Soul Mission reformer Miss Sarah Brown — Sky sweeps Sarah to Havana, where the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Nathan keeps jilting Miss Adelaide, the nightclub chanteuse to whom he has been engaged for 14 years.
“It’s really just about a beautiful couple and how they fall in love somewhere they would never have expected it,” said Church, also interim music director for musical theater programs at Elon University in North Carolina.
The show's score is generally considered to be among the greatest in American theater history, with two of its tunes becoming jazz standards recorded by Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and others. Familiar songs include "Luck Be a Lady," “Bushel and a Peck,” “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “If I Were a Bell.”
Jeffrey Cobb, director of music programs at Northwestern Michigan College, said the concert is a rare opportunity for NMC's 70-member adult choirs to “spread our musical wings.”
““We don’t typically perform music from the musical theater genre,” he said in a press release.
Narrator — and Traverse City Downtown Development Authority Executive Director — Bryan Crough will help set the stage for the show, which takes audiences from the New York mission to a city street to a Havana nightclub.
“Because we don’t have sets, he helps the audience understand where the action takes place and moves the storyline ahead," Church said. “Visually the effect that the audience is supposed to get is the numbers on the stage — the orchestra, the chorus, the soloists. And to be able to embrace how hard the pit orchestra, which is usually under the stage, works.
“I’m proud of the city I live in for taking a risk, because this is a big endeavor,” he said.
The TSO has presented other concerts featuring Broadway hits, but this will be its first full concert production of a musical, said Krista Cooper, the orchestra's interim executive director.
“Kevin Rhodes has always wanted to do something like this. And it’s nice for us to branch out and reach different audiences,” Cooper said. “I’ve seen the rehearsals, and it’s high-energy fun.”
Tickets are $20 to $55, plus fees, at the TSO box office, 947-7120 or traversesymphony.org.