Interview: Rebecca Kemp – Directing A Bunch Of Crazy ‘Guys & Dolls’

Guys & Dolls first opened on Broadway in 1950 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. With a score by Frank Loesser, this feel good musical is one of the most performed musicals of all times.

Set in a mythical New York City, Guys & Dolls follows the story of gambler Nathan Detroit as he tries to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town, while the authorities breathe down his neck. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they’ve been engaged for fourteen years. Nathan turns to fellow gambler, Sky Masterson, for the dough, and Sky ends up chasing the straight-laced missionary, Sarah Brown, as a result. 

Opening this Thursday October 20, The Metropolitan Theatre Company of South Australia (The MET) are bringing this much loved classic to The Arts Theatre in the Adelaide CBD. This production is directed by Rebecca Kemp, with whom I spoke recently, ahead of their production moving into the theatre for its final rehearsals. Rebecca spoke with me about where her love of Guys & Dolls came from.

“I remember seeing the Australian production with Anthony Warlow back in the 1980s, and I remember being taken by the era that the show was set in – the 1950s. I know that era can be a bit problematic these days, but Guys & Dolls is such light hearted fun, and I feel that, after two years of really intense world changing events, it was time to go back to something that was fun. It’s a great show, and just full of laughter. It warms your soul.”

Rebecca is no stranger to the theatre. Recently, she was in Therry Theatre’s highly acclaimed production of The Audience, as Queen Elizabeth II. I was keen to find out from Rebecca what her experience has been as a director as opposed to a performer.

“It’s so different being on a production team compared to being in the cast. It is a bit like comparing apples with oranges. I definitely, as an actor, will go back into acting with a greater understanding of the behind-the-scenes work that a director does, and largely goes unnoticed. It takes up a lot of time, more time than it does to learn lines. Being a director is a bit like my day job as a unit manager where I manage a large team. It is about finding unique and creative ways to put on a show when you are working with an amateur theatre budget. It’s great to work with The MET, who are incredibly experienced and have wonderful systems in place to support their production team. It’s been a lot of hard work, but everyone involved has worked above and beyond behind the scenes to make a very special piece of theatre. When you see it all come together it really makes all the hard work feel valid. I am very ready for this show to get into the theatre.”

The MET’s Guys & Dolls features a cast of local South Australians.

“My four leads are absolutely wonderful. I am very blessed to have such experienced leads. We have Daniel Fleming as Sky Masterson. He has done so many shows over the years, and watching him bring his wealth of experience is amazing. He is a good leading man. He is pleasant to watch, he is charming on stage and he is a very generous person to work with. He has built a beautiful rapport with Chloe Dunstan who is our Sarah Brown, and a relative newcomer to theatre. We also have incredibly wonderful actors playing Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide with Robin Schmelzkopf and Selena Britz. Working with Robin has been an absolute treat. He has just brought Nathan Detroit to life. He brings so much experience and stage craft with him that we have just had to tweak a little bit here and there with him, and it is the same with Selena. Her comic ability to bring Adelaide to live is brilliant. The general cast is incredible. There is no small part, and everyone is highly featured in the production. We have had a lot of fun work behind the scenes to bring a new life to this show.”

Guys & Dolls opens at The Arts Theatre Thursday 20 October and runs through to Saturday 29 October. Tickets can be purchased through .

Interviewed by: Ben Stefanoff

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