The Great Depression-set musical Guys and Dolls is a classic—and the Palm Canyon Theatre is bringing the show, which initially premiered on Broadway back in 1950, to its stage in January and February.
During a recent phone interview, director/choreographer Derik Shopinski explained why the Palm Canyon Theatre decided to include Guys and Dolls in this year’s schedule.
“It’s been a number of years since we’ve done the show,” Shopinski said. “The timing felt right. It’s in a good time slot for us, given the snowbirds really love the older shows that they know—and this one has gotten a huge response already with ticket sales.
“It’s a fun, feel-good show. It does have a message at heart, but it’s still a fun show.”
Shopinski elaborated on what’s fun about Guys and Dolls.
“At its heart, it’s two different love stories—the contrast between the Salvation Army girl and her bootlegger-gambler boyfriend, and the other couple, with the nightclub star and her gambler boyfriend who have been engaged for 14 years. It’s about the problems that they face, how they arrive at the end of the show, and how they tie it all up,” Shopinski said. “It has one of the best musical scores. … There’s so much about it that’s fun to watch, fun to look at and fun to listen to. We also have some amazing talent in the show, so that’s going to be very exciting for me, working with this very talented cast.”
That cast will contain some faces familiar to those who have attended Palm Canyon Theatre shows before, as well as some new talent.
“I have Paul Grant, who is playing Nathan Detroit, and Se Layne, who is playing Miss Adelaide, his love interest,” Shopinski said. “The other couple is married in real life—Nicholas Sloan and his wife, Jamie Leigh Walker, are playing Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown. I’ve worked with them both separately on other projects, and they are a dream to work with; they are incredibly professional, and they work well together, because they’ve done shows together since before they were married and while they’ve been married.”
Shopinski said the song that stands out to him comes toward the end of Act II.
“‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’—it really wraps up the show in so many ways,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest ensemble numbers for all of the men and the band members. It’s a high-energy dance number that ties everything together.”
Bringing older musicals to the stage today may seem like a challenge to some—but Shopinski said he doesn’t see things that way.
“I really know these kinds of shows, given I grew up with them,” he said. “I know the music, and when you get into directing them, you can really dissect the story. While it’s historical … it’s necessarily telling historical events, because it’s taking place in another time. This was when they didn’t have all the television shows, and there wasn’t an internet. All you had was film and theater. They were three hours long, and it was what you did for entertainment. You went out to dinner, and then you went to the theater.”
The Palm Canyon Theatre finds success and is able to do a wide variety of shows thanks in part to its casting process, Shopinski said.
“Our casting process is very diverse,” he said. “We cast people of all backgrounds and all ages. Any given show, we’ll have 16-year-olds performing with our veteran performers. That, in turn, brings in the younger members’ friends to experience the shows. Our audience is as diverse as our cast members.”
Guys and Dolls will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $32 to $36. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.