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Wirtz Center’s ‘Guys and Dolls’ opens Feb. 15 with a modern look at gender

Nick Bowling directs the Broadway classic follow-up to fall’s record-breaking season

EVANSTON -- Jeff Award winner and TimeLine Associate Artistic Director Nick Bowling stages a fresh take on the beloved Broadway fable where mobsters, mayhem and musical comedy light up the stage.

Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts presents “Guys and Dolls” from Feb. 15 to March 3 in the Ethel Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

The Broadway debut in 1950 ran for 1,200 performances and earned multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Performances by a Leading Actor and by a Featured Actress in a Musical. Subsequent revivals have earned Tony, Olivier Awards and Drama Desk Awards. 

Featuring music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, “Guys and Dolls” is based on Damon Runyon’s colorful story of characters in the New York underworld. The Wirtz Center production’s modern twist acknowledges the non-binary gender and sexual identity of its characters that exist both today and were present, if underground, when the musical was first written.

“Guys and Dolls” travels from the heart of Times Square to the cafes of Havana, Cuba and even into the sewers of New York City and leaves us asking what it really means to be a Guy... or a Doll. Gambler Nathan Detroit tries to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town while the authorities breathe down his neck. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they've been engaged for 14 years. Nathan turns to fellow gambler Sky Masterson for the cash, and Sky ends up chasing the straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown who has never encountered anyone quite like Sky.

“‘Guys and Dolls’ today has to be looked at through a more modern lens, and the best way to look at that is through a less binary way,” director Bowling said. “Our production is going to include women in roles traditionally played by men, and it is going to question the typical norms of gender and sexuality.” Watch the video interview with Bowling and production gender consultant Josephine Kearns.

The Wirtz Center and this production of “Guys and Dolls” are proud to participate in Chicago Theatre Week with $15 tickets to the Feb. 15 and 17 shows. For more information about special offers on more than 100 Chicago productions, visit the Chicago Theatre Week website

Chicago Theatre Week is presented by the League of Chicago Theatres with support from Choose Chicago.

Performances of “Guys and Dolls” are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. There is no performance on Thursday, Feb. 21. Tickets are $30 for the general public; $27 for seniors (62+) and area educators; $25 for Northwestern faculty and staff; and $6 in advance for students (or $10 at the door). A limited number of $15 Chicago Theatre Week tickets are available on Feb. 15 and Feb. 17. 

Tickets and more information are available on the Wirtz Center website. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 847-491-7282 or in person at the Wirtz Center box office, which is located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Box office hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The box office is closed on Sundays and Mondays. 

The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts. 

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