Guys and Dolls... 1959, 1985, 2000, and 2009
Some Columbia actors have been singing "Luck Be a Lady" for more years than lead characters Nathan and Adelaide have been engaged. On opening weekend of Town Theatre's fourth production of "Guys and Dolls," the theater welcomed back its past performers with a wine and cheese reception. This event was one of many that the theater has put on to celebrate its 90th season.
"Without the people, none of this would be possible," executive director Sandra Willis said. "It takes a lot of time, and no one gets paid, but when the curtain goes up it's magical and a treasure for the community."
Agnes Floyd Babb of Columbia first put on her Hot Box Doll fishnets for the 1985 production and reprised the role again in 2000 and 2009. "Guys and Dolls" was Babb's introduction to community theater.
"It's still as much fun as the first time," she said. "It's kind of a special show."
Joining her for the third round was Columbia stage regular Bobby Craft as the unrepentant dice thrower Nicely- Nicely Johnson. The lines remain the same, but a few things have changed for the gambler. He seems to have gone on a diet.
Several Columbians used their time at the Town Theater as a springboard to greater things in the profession. "Guys and Dolls" was one of Voight Kempson's first musicals. His role as a dancing crap shooter eventually led to a spot in the Broadway production of "Hello Dolly." Later, Kempson went on to choreograph for various shows around the world before retiring with his wife in Columbia.
Those in attendance at Town's first production of "Guys and Dolls" in 1959 would have been gazing at the handiwork of set designer Christian Thee. Thee went on to the Great White Way where he painted 27 and designed 12 Broadway shows.
"Town Theatre was a wonderful training ground for me," Thee said. "I was responsible for more graffiti in the men's restroom than anyone else."
"Guys and Dolls" was dance matriarch Naomi Calvert's second musical. She starred as Adelaide in the 1959 show. Taking up her mantel in the 2000 in was Janet Kile who found the larger- than- life Hot Box singer to be a joy and a challenge to portray.
"It was impossible to do too much," she said with a laugh. "It was kind of hard to do actually. Her grammar is really bad, so it was hard to memorize my lines."
See "Guys and Dolls" Wednesday through Saturday at 8 pm and 3 pm on Sunday through May 30. Call (803) 799-2510 or visit www.towntheatre.com for more information.