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On Stage: 'Guys And Dolls'


Damon Runyon was born into a family of newspapermen in 1880, in Manhattan, Kansas. He was a journalist and a fiction writer who met Pancho Villa in a bar while covering spring training in Texas, and whose best friend was an accountant for the Mob.

Runyon was known for his use of slang in his short stories, which were set in the Prohibition Broadway world of gamblers, gangsters, grifters, and actors. Women were identified as “Judies,” “pancakes,” “dolls,” and “characters of a female nature;” while men went by such nicknames as “The Seldom Seen Kid” and “Sorrowful Jones.” When Runyon died from throat cancer in New York City in 1946, he was cremated and the ashes were scattered—illegally—over Broadway by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker in a DC-3.

Two of Runyon's short stories, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure” were the basis for the musical Guys and Dolls, and the show also uses characters and plot points from his other stories, including “Pick the Winner,” which went on to become the basis of its own film, Little Miss Marker. Frank Loesser wrote the music and lyrics for Guys and Dolls, and the book was written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The musical made its Broadway debut in 1950 and won the Tony in every category for which it was nominated, including Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Leading Actor and Best Featured Actress.

Music Theatre Wichita is putting Guys and Dolls onstage at Century II on June 27th to July 1st.