San Diego

Back to Basics for ‘Guys and Dolls' Director, Choreographer Josh Rhodes at The Old Globe

Josh Rhodes directs and choreographs the classic Broadway musical.

For Director and Choreographer Josh Rhodes, coming on board to helm The Old Globe's revival of the classic Broadway fable "Guys and Dolls" meant going back to basics. 

Rhodes, back at the Globe for the fourth time, had grown up seeing the musical time and time again: in high school, in college, and on Broadway. 

The classic American musical, considered one of the best of all time, follows Nathan Detroit, New York's infamous game organizer, who makes a bet with a notorious gambler: take mission girl Sarah Brown to dinner in Cuba. The musical features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling.

But in Rhodes' decades of experience as a Broadway dancer, choreographer, and director, he had never dealt with the musical from the production side. 

"So the daunting part of that is to now say, 'Okay, you now get to direct 'Guys and Dolls,', what are you going to do?" Rhodes said in an interview with NBC 7. "What are you going to do with it?"

Rhodes knew right away he wanted to create the kind of musical that made theatre-goers laugh and walk out of the theater happy and elated.

The leads from The Old Globe revival of Guys and Dolls talk about their time working on the show, what it takes to put it all together and the takeaway lessons. The musical plays through Aug. 13.

So when he started working on the musical, Rhodes said, he went back to basics with the revival -- back to the Damon Runyon short stories, the literature the musical is based on. 

"I went back to those short stories and the writing and the eccentricity and the humor was so original and unique and delightful that I thought, okay, I want us to go there," Rhodes explained. "I want us to have a sense of this charming language and this humor."

He worked with the ensemble to create their own universe inside The Globe. 

Terence Archie ("Rocky") stars as Sky Masterson, J. Bernard Calloway ("Memphis") as Nathan Detroit, Audrey Cardwell ("Cinderella") as Sarah Brown and Veronica J. Kuehn ("Avenue Q") as Miss Adelaide. Todd Buonopane joins as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Steve Greenstein as Big Jule. 

The cast practiced speaking in the language from the books, telling old-timey jokes, and improvised. 

"We just improved, every day, physically, with our language, with our mouth, and really wrapped around this world and we created a little universe that’s all our own," Rhodes said. "So I think what the audience will hopefully see is a well-rounded ensemble of everyone playing the same show."

The Old Globe's production of "Guys and Dolls", in partnership with the Asolo Rep Theatre, features all new costumes, scenery, orchestrations, sound design and more. 

Rhodes was excited to bring the production to San Diego after a run in Florida for a number of reasons. He previously directed the Globe's production of Ken Ludwig’s "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," following his work as the choreographer on the award-winning "Bright Star".

One of his favorite parts about returning to San Diego to work at The Old Globe is the passionate theater patrons. Theatre goers in San Diego absolutely love and know theater, Rhodes said. 

"They go see Shakespeare one week and they go see Guys and Dolls the next week and they go see something else," Rhodes said. "They’re varied, and they love theater, and I think that’s really inspiring for a director because you go, okay, my audience wants this. My audience wants to devour theater, so how do I make this as enjoyable as possible?"

Rhodes hopes his audience walks away from "Guys and Dolls" with a smile on their faces, even if they have seen an incarnation of the show before. 

"I know that it's been around a long time, but it is not something to take for granted – that the writers did such a great job with the script," Rhodes said. "It’s really funny and the characters are really lovable and the music is so good."

"Guys and Dolls" runs from July 2 to Aug. 13 at the Globe's Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased here

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