St. Luke’s United Methodist Church is celebrating its return to live theater with a classic musical.
Gangsters might not be part of a normal church service, but they are taking center stage for the St. Luke’s United Methodist Church production of “Guys and Dolls.”
The beloved musical, set in Depression-era New York, tells the stories of gambler Sky Masterson, who falls in love with mission worker Sarah Brown, and Masterson’s friend, Nathan Detroit, and his long-time fiancee, Miss Adelaide.
“We are stoked to be doing it at St. Luke’s for its message of community, acceptance, and transformation,” Artistic Director Steve MacKinnon said of the production. “The characters all change for each other and challenge each other and grow together. It’s one of the main reasons we chose the show.”
The musical is the church’s first full production since the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown. But pandemic precautions still are playing a role in the planning.
“Casts always vary in size according to the production, but because of COVID, we kept our cast size smaller,” MacKinnon said. “I believe this cast is about 35, but we’ve had casts of up to 100.”
All cast members, orchestra and crew are required to be fully vaccinated, and masks are required for the audience. The facial covering requirement also extends to performers, but the use of face shields will provide a solution that fits the needs of the actors.
“The shields are actually a lot easier to work with rather than a mask over your face,” said Lillie Thomas, who is portraying Sarah Brown. She has been acting since 2016 and was part of the Garden Theatre’s 2020 production of “Hello Dolly,” where face masks were required. “With the shields, you can see expressions below the eye.”
Face shields also can accommodate the small microphones used in church services.
COVID pivots aside, the production will celebrate the classic musical with the same creativity and passion St. Luke’s brings to all its productions. A unique stage design plays a major role in providing an immersive experience.
“It’s a classic show, but it’s being staged, choreographed and acted on what’s called a thrust stage,” MacKinnon said. “It’s almost like a runway.”
Scenic elements are designed to go all around the audience. The orchestra, which is hidden in most theaters, will be on stage.
“It’s kind of like Shakespeare in the round,” Thomas said. “You get to have the experience of looking at all the different angles instead of just facing front. It gives you more room to play.”
Thomas also adores the positive environment at St. Luke’s, as well as the welcoming attitude that permeates every aspect of production.
“They’re so accepting of everyone, and they love to try different things to add new life to a show,” said Thomas, who points out an inclusive aspect of this “Guys and Dolls” production. “You have a woman of color portraying Sarah Brown and falling in love with a man who is not a person of color, especially (in the era) it’s set. It adds another element to the show. I’m really excited for people to see it.”
MacKinnon credits the cast and community members contributing their talents for the success of every production.
“Our cast is 50% St Luke’s, 50% local performers and designers and technicians,” he said. “It’s not just an insider kind of deal. It’s actually more of a community outreach program.”
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