Many are familiar with Guys and Dolls, the classic gambling musical about a couple of big city, Depression-era gamblers and the women who love them. Few, however, have seen it performed in which some of the “guys” are actually “dolls.” Well hang on to your fedoras, because the Agoura Community Theater (ACT) upcoming production–in partnership with Curtain Call Youth Theatre (CCYT)–at the Agoura High Performing Arts Education Center (PAEC) features talented young actresses portraying well-known male characters. CCYT’s creative director Jeff Wallach says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “We try to have one gender bending show per season,” said Wallach. “…this definitely gives a unique twist on the title song [‘Guys and Dolls’].”
Arielle Jacobellis, 18, plays “Nicely-Nicely” Johnson, a sidekick to lead Nathan Detroit. Jacovellin said she is portraying her character as female but with an edge. “She’s not all girly-girly,” said the Newbury Park High senior. “The character is an interpretation that was developed between Jeff and myself.”
Like Jacobellis, Hannah Comstock, 16, plays a gangster sidekick–Benny Southstreet–but she doesn’t find the gender-bending twist too much of a stretch. “I’ve played male characters before [like “Rooster” in Annie], so this isn’t too much beyond my comfort zone,” said the Pierce College freshman.
Not all of the roles are gender bent. ACT newcomer Elena Moreno, 18, portrays Miss Adelaide, the Hat Box Club headliner engaged to Nathan for 14 years. “The first thing I discussed with Jeff [when working out the character] is ‘why does she stay with Nathan?’ We figured she’s a people pleaser,” said the Agoura High student on the evolution of her character. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had [in a theater production], and I get to do a crazy voice.”
Wallach calls the show–which will take place in the Black Box Theater of the PAEC–a “boutique production. Very intimate with minimal seating.” Scene changes will be delineated with the use of background projection and the music will be from a fully orchestrated CD.
“This is a nice opportunity for us to do a large scale musical as a small scale production,” he said.
ACT and CCYT is unique in that it exclusively focuses on youth, ages 13-19, and brings in teens from all over the Conejo Valley, Wallach said. Each season features four productions, beginning in the summer. The entire back and front stage production crew is also made up of local teens.
Cast members agree that working with Wallach has been an overall positive experience. “Jeff is hands-on. There’s never a negative moment,” said Jacobellis.
“Every person in the cast wants to be there,” said Moreno. “We all want to come to rehearsal … It makes it a loving show.”
Guys and Dolls performances will be held in the Agoura High School Performing Arts & Education Center, located at 28545 W. Driver Ave in Agoura Hills. The show will run Thursday, February 25 through Saturday, February 27. Show times are Thursday – Saturday at 8 p.m., and a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 (General) and $18 (Seniors and students). Special discounts for students and seniors available online.
Enjoy a few cast rehearsal photos in the gallery below: