Guys and Dolls

By Richard Schultz, January 2017 Issue.

Now in its sixth year, Scottsdale Musical Theater Company (SMTC) prides itself on “bringing Broadway’s favorites back to life.” Now in its sixth year, this ambitious local theatre company continues presenting large-scale productions of Broadway musicals – including professional sets and costumes, local talent and a full live orchestra for every show – at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

From Jan. 5 to 8, the company turns its focus to Guys and Dolls, the 1950 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical based on short stories by American author Damon Runyon.

A key component in recreating the magic of Broadway musicals, of course, is finding a musical director with a passion for reviving these classic productions. For SMTC, local musician Curtis Moeller (pictured) fits the bill and has helmed numerous shows with the company.

Moeller, a graduate of Arizona State University, has also worked with theater companies throughout the Valley, including Heathers at Stray Cat and Next to Normal at Nearly Naked Theatre.

Echo caught up with Moeller to find out more about his take on this production of Guys and Dolls.

Echo: What is the theatrical significance of Guys and Dolls?

Moeller: Guys and Dolls has rightfully earned a secure spot in the musical theater canon. Since its premiere in 1950, it has received numerous Broadway and West End revivals and countless productions worldwide. It won five Tony Awards, including best musical. I believe it technically should have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama because it is a truly American story that enriched our country’s shared heritage.

Echo: How does Guys and Dolls represent that period of Broadway musicals?

Moeller: Like South Pacific, The King and I and many other 1950s musicals, the central theme is a love story between people from opposite sides of the track. Being a musical comedy, though, of course we can rest assured knowing that the guys will end up with the dolls by the end of the show. It also follows closely on the heels of Cole Porter and others by including the stock characters of gamblers, showgirls and religious crusaders.

Echo: How are musicals today similar or different than Guys and Dolls?

Moeller: The composer, Frank Loesser, incorporated complex jazz harmonies and advanced musical structures that we rarely find in contemporary musicals. In this way, it is both high and low brow. Although most people in the audience probably won’t know what a “fugue” is, they can tell that the opening song “Fugue for Tinhorns” sounds pretty amazing.

Echo: Why does this musical still resonate with audiences?

Moeller: There is a great balance of humor and wit mixed with a charming love story.

Echo: Often audiences will know a film version better than the stage version. What makes the stage version so unique?

Moeller: Being a music director, the biggest differences are the songs. A few songs were swapped out in the movie version without too much effect, but they unfortunately cut Abernathy’s song to Sarah “More I Cannot Wish You,” and the female leads’ duet “Marry the Man Today.” Both subtractions sadly reduce the full range of these characters on film.

Echo: Do you have a favorite musical number in the show and why?

Moeller: [That’s] a tough question, but I’d lean towards “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat.” I love that it comes at such an unexpected moment, from an unexpected character, and so suddenly and successfully turns the whole scene into a toe-tapping tent revival.

Echo: Please complete the following statement: Local audiences should not miss this production of Guys and Dolls because …

Moeller: … with these actors onstage, I guarantee you’ll have a good evening!

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