St. Aidan’s group will stage ‘Guys and Dolls’

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A colorful collection of Damon Runyonesque characters will populate the St. Aidan’s Summer Stage next weekend when the seasonal theater group for promising teenaged thespians presents “Guys and Dolls.”

This marks the second year of the revival of the St. Aidan’s Summer Stage under the direction of John Hayes, who also directs the Herricks Community Theater Players. Hayes said he chose the classic musical with words and music by Frank Loesser because it has a large male chorus and it was consensus choice among the teens who acted in “Oklahoma” last year when the theater group reformed.

“That’s what they wanted to do,” Hayes said.

It’s familiar ground for the veteran director, who had brought another production of “Guys and Dolls” during the former incarnation of the St. Aidan’s group in 1986.

The students participating in the theater group are from high schools throughout the area, including Herricks, Chaminade and Mineola.

Asked why he enjoys directing the summer theater at St. Aidan, Hayes said, “They’re all lovely people. It keeps them off the streets. That’s why I do it.”

Herricks senior Michael Hand, who plays a drunk in the play, said he likes the experience because, “It is the most interesting thing to do in this area during the summer, and it’s fun. They’re good people here.”

Maria Hanafee, who is playing stalwart salvationist Sarah Brown, said, “The whole cast is like a family.”

The cast also is enjoying the opportunity to play the eccentric collection of gamblers and their girl friends that came to life in Loesser’s musical from two short stories by Runyon.

“The show is a lot of fun. I’ve never done ‘Guys and Dolls’ before,” said Jasmine Crispin, who will be entering her senior year at Kellenberg Memorial High School. “It incorporates everything. It’s really universal.”

The fun the cast is having in performing the memorable Loesser songs is apparent during an exuberant rehearsal of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” the humorous revival vamp immortalized by Stubby Kaye in the screen version of the show.

Brian Rivera, who will be a junior at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset this fall, portrays Kaye’s character, Nicely Nicely, and does a fine job of delivering an energetic rendition of the tune.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “And I get to eat so much food.”

Nick O’Connor, a senior at Chaminade, acknowledges the fun part of it, but says the play requires the actors to focus on their characters.

“It’s a lot of work. It’s a good experience,” he said.

James Agolia, who also will be a senior at Chaminade this fall, is the faultless accompanist who also played piano for last summer’s production.

“There’s a lot of energy in the music,” said Agolia, who evokes much of that energy in his playing.

The co-producers of the show are Carol Hayes, also a veteran of the Herricks players with her husband John, and Father Thomas Tassone of St. Aidan.

The musical director is Regan Stone and the choreographer for the period piece is Barbara Tromba-Murphy.

“Guys and Dolls” debuts on Aug. 19, with performances that Friday night and Saturday, Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. A matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for senior citizens and children. Tickets can be ordered by calling 516-741-7509 or at the air-conditioned Monsignor Kirwin Hall on Pembroke Street off Willis Avenue, where the performances will be held, prior to each performance.

Reach reporter Richard Tedesco by e-mail at rtedesco@theislandnow.com or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204

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