A Taste of Broadway in Youngstown

By Marah J. Morrison

A semi-staged concert version of the hit Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls” featured a cast of actors from the stages of Broadway and the Mahoning Valley on Feb. 16 at the DeYor Performing Arts Center.

“Guys and Dolls” involves a gambler who is challenged to take a cold, female missionary to Havana, but they end up falling for each other. The musical opened in New York City on Nov. 24 in 1950 and played through Nov. 28, 1953.

Photo Courtesy Of Todd Hancock

Todd Hancock of Easy Street Productions and the director of the shows said it’s great the Youngstown Symphony thought outside the box by presenting a concert version of “Guys and Dolls.”

“What Easy Street does is musicals,” he said. “I think that they wanted to do something that would appeal to people especially because of Valentine’s Day.”

Hancock said Easy Street Productions and the Youngstown Symphony wanted to collaborate to create the perfect date night for people with “Guys and Dolls,” and a cool fact about this show was they were able to invite two former Youngstown actresses who are making it big on Broadway tours.

“Elysia Jordan and Natalia Lepore Hagan were both just finishing up their Broadway tours of ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Love Never Dies,’” he said. “It worked out in their schedule that they had free time and were able to come back to Youngstown to star in the show.”

Hancock said the best thing about this production was to bring a sense of pride to Youngstown by proving they can put on a production like this and feature many talented performers.

He said not only the leads of the show, who are from Youngstown and are currently doing Broadway, get to be celebrated in the production, but it was a chance for people to see how talented the local actors are.

“There’s touring productions that come through Powers Auditorium all of the time, but this was something that the Youngstown community can be proud of,” he said.

Randall Fleischer, the music director and conductor of the Youngstown Symphony, said it was very exciting to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a classic and romantic Broadway musical. He said it was brought to life in a unique fashion with the orchestra on stage.

“It [was] fully staged, fully choreographed, fully acted, fully costumed, fully lit, but the orchestra [was] actually on stage [and] not in the pit,” he said. “It [was] a unique experience.”

Fleischer said the cast for the production was very diverse, with  the youngest featured performer in the production being in their early 20s and the older cast members in their early 70s.

“The Youngstown Symphony strives to serve the community of Youngstown,” he said. “We work to be this sort of musical axis around which the musical community of Youngstown spins. Everything that we do, we are looking to provide a diverse, varied, artistic menu to the community.”

Mia Colón, a Hot Box Girl in the show, said the first time she did “Guys and Dolls” was in a different scenario because she was in grade school for her first performance in the show. She said being in it again was more reminiscent than anything.

“I’m older now so there [were] a lot more things that I [caught] onto,” she said. “The cast that I got to work with this time around [was] absolutely fantastic. Everyone [was] so awesome and everyone [was] so dedicated.”

Jessica Joerndt, who was a part of the Mission Band in the production, said it was exciting to have an amazing group of people from the community, as well as those who have gone on professionally, come back to work together on a heartwarming show.

“We don’t normally get the chance to work with people that have gone on [professionally],” she said. “You learn so much in your community, but it’s really when you go out to bigger cities and learn the ropes and how the business really is, and come back and show the community what you can do and what’s possible.”

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