Stage of the Tide makes a winning bet with ‘Guys and Dolls’

From left, assorted gangsters and lowlifes portrayed by Pheobe Tschappat, Hyrum Fish, Avery Reynolds, Wendy Ranney, Jacob Ranney, Lehi Fish, Nathan Wesely, Katrina Hoffman and Kate McLaughlin take to the sewers for an illegal dice game. (Nov. 6, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Stage of the Tide’s Nov. 5-6 production of “Guys and Dolls” proved a hit with audiences, and ticket revenue was less severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic than expected, organizers said.

“It’s been a great way to reinvigorate the community, I think,” said Nathan Wesely, who played down-at-the-heel gambler Nathan Detroit. “We’re very lucky to be in a place where we can do something like this at all, being a small town with a lot of health-conscious individuals that are vaccinated. It seems crazy that we were able to pull it off, but, by God, we did!”

The classic musical comedy drew 280 people to its three showings at the North Star Theatre, compared to the roughly 480 people who saw the company’s 2019 production of “Mamma Mia!” and roughly 460 people who saw the company’s 2018 production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Attendance at this year’s show may have been impacted by rules put forth by event organizers, requiring audience members to wear masks and to either provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Though “Guys and Dolls” ran at a roughly $1,000 loss, this was still a better result than expected, said Barclay Kopchak, the show’s director and producer.

From left, Hot Box dancers Kayti Ammerman, Bree Mills, Heather Thorne and Deryn Carter make a risqué entrance into act two. (Nov. 6, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

“That’s why we have surpluses from years past: to take care of these things,” Kopchak said.

Bree Mills, an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nominee and veteran of several Stage of the Tide productions, said that a supportive backstage environment helped make the challenges of rehearsals more manageable. For Mills, who played nightclub dancer Miss Adelaide, this included mastering “Take Back Your Mink,” a complex and slightly risqué dance number. During six weeks of rehearsals, Mills was able to get a grip on “Take Back Your Mink” only with the support of her fellow dancers, she said.

“I called them my Hype Women,” Mills said. “No way I could have gone out on stage in my skivvies without their endless support and encouragement.”

The cast applauds director and producer Barclay Kopchak at the final performance of “Guys and Dolls” at the North Star Theatre. (Nov. 6, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Meanwhile, Wesely took a method acting approach to his role, learning to play craps and listening to music by Frank Sinatra and other artists from the period.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, Kopchak indicated that Stage of the Tide will carry on with future productions.

“I always tell people for at least a month that I’m resting on my laurels and refuse to discuss any future projects, but… I’m betting it’ll happen again,” Kopchak said. “I’m gambling on it.”