Reading, MA — Colonial Chorus Players of Reading is hoping Lady Luck is on their side as they present the classic Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls May 13–15, 2022, more than two years after it was originally slated to run.
The show had been cast in January 2020, with performances scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend that May. The cast had just held its first rehearsal on March 8 when the production was forced to shut down due to Covid. It was rescheduled for May 2021 but the CCP Executive Board soon realized that was being optimistic, and once again, it was postponed.
“We knew two years ago that we had something special, and it broke our hearts when we had to delay this show not once but twice,” says Heather Hamilton, president of Colonial Chorus Players and also one of the show’s producers.
During the height of the pandemic, the community theater kept afloat by holding fundraisers such as old-fashioned bottle and can drives and virtual Bingo nights. Members renewed their memberships and made other generous donations. A streaming production of a radio play version of It’s a Wonderful Life was performed in December 2020 from the Old Hose House with the aid of plexiglass dividers separating the actors.
When the state allowed theaters to open back up in 2021, CCP held its first live production at the Hose House in October with the comedy Drinking Habits, playing to sold-out, masked-up audiences. Later that month, the community theater that was founded in 1961 was finally able to celebrate its diamond anniversary with an in-person gala at a local restaurant.
All throughout 2021, Heather Hamilton and co-producer Fred Gallagher continued to keep in touch with the original Guys and Dolls gang with the hopes of eventually starting up rehearsals again. A new director, Andrew Rhodes, and choreographer, Lindsey McGovern, were brought on board to join music director Shawn Gezleichter, and a new round of auditions was held in February to fill in a few roles.
“Theatre people are the most creative and resilient people I know,” says Heather Hamilton. “I’m incredibly grateful that we have managed to retain a large majority of our original cast, which in itself is kind of a miracle. Plus, we’ve added some terrific new faces.
Finally, almost two years to the date of that initial rehearsal in 2020, everyone assembled at the Hose House March 6 for a read-through—and rehearsals have been rolling along ever since.
Laura Bilodeau, who was cast as General Cartwright in 2020 along with her husband, David, as Lieutenant Brannigan, likens that first rehearsal to a kid returning to school after summer break.
“It was so exciting to attend the first read-through and to note so many familiar faces who stuck with it through the two-year delay,” she says. “I must say, we sounded terrific when we sang together as though we picked up where we had left off two years earlier. It made me realize that the wait was well worth it!”
Guys and Dolls runs one weekend only, with performances on May 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. at Parker Middle School, 45 Temple Street in Reading. Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. Visit ccp1961.org for information and tickets.