After a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the Kennedy Center is reviving its Broadway Center Stage series, presenting the classic Tony–winning “Guys and Dolls” from Oct. 7-16, with a cast that’s sure to be a winner.
Tony winners James Monroe Iglehart and Jessie Mueller play craps game organizer Nathan Detroit and his long-suffering fiancé, Miss Adelaide; while Broadway veterans and real-life husband and wife Steven Pasquale and Phillipa Soo take on the roles of high-risk gambler Sky Masterson and his conquest, the straight-laced missionary, Sarah Brown.
The sterling cast also includes Broadway stars Kevin Chamberlin as Nicely-Nicely, Jacqueline Antaramian as General Cartwright, Fred Applegate as Arvide Abernathy, and going against type, Rachel Dratch as the tough Chicagoan, Big Jule.
Thanks to a memorable score by Frank Loesser and a book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling based on the short stories of Damon Runyon, “Guys and Dolls” is one of the most successful musicals of all time, both on Broadway and in film, where Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando starred in 1955.
The story follows down-on-his-luck Nathan Detroit, who can’t raise the $1,000 he needs to run his infamous craps game, and he tries to keep a bunch of gamblers and gangsters—plus his fiancé—happy while trying to find a solution. Enter big-time player Sky Masterson, who never met a risk he wouldn’t bet. When Nathan bets Sky that he can’t take a woman of his choosing to Havana Cuba, things take a romantic and unexpected turn when the woman in question is missionary Sarah Brown.
Chamberlin, who is from Ellicott City, Md., is thrilled to be part of this special show, and feels it was almost destined.
“This summer I was working at Kristin Chenoweth’s boot camp and I sang, ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ with the kids, not knowing I would soon be doing the show and getting to sing this incredible song on stage,” he says.
And the actor, who has been on Broadway as Horton in “Seussical,” Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family” and the Wizard in “Wicked,” actually got his equity card in “Guys and Dolls” 40 years ago in Cape Cod playing this same role.
But this version, directed by Marc Bruni, will see an expanded version of the song first done in the 1992 Broadway production, that really lets Nicely-Nicely shine more than ever.
“Nicely-Nicely is that classic, second-banana henchman role, which I love,” Chamberlin says. “Stubby Kaye (who played the character in the film) has always been one of my idols—I love the old character actors and follow in their footsteps and give my impersonation of these classic roles. Besides getting to sing that 11 o’clock number, it’s so fun to do the Damon Runyon dialect.”
Since the Broadway Center Stage only requires actors to be available for about a month—two weeks for rehearsal and then two weeks of shows, Chamberlin noted it paves the way for a bigger caliber of actors, and that’s certainly the case with “Guys and Dolls.”
“This is just A-class caliber talent,” he says. “Plus, it will have a 22-piece orchestra, which is rare these days. And even though it is a staged concert, it will be beautifully designed. Everyone is jazzed to have this series reopened.”
He was interested, he noted, because of shorter time commitment that most shows require, because he’s been plenty busy of late. Chamberlin is huge on TikTok, having done “Ratatouille the Musical” during the pandemic, and his videos regularly rack up millions of views from his 9.5 million followers. Chamberlin also has recurring roles on several TV shows, including “Outer Range” on Amazon.
It’s a career that Chamberlin knew he wanted from a young age.
“When I was young, I was the chubby kid, and I was trying to look for ways to not be the sad kid being picked on—I wanted to find where my talent lies, and I was a really good pianist, and music got me into musical theatre,” he says.
And with his talent—which has earned him three Tony noms and a trio of Drama Desk nominations— becoming a star was as sure a thing as Nathan Detroit could ever wish for.
“Guys and Dolls” runs October 7 through 16 at The Kennedy Center. Purchase tickets here.