Look Back at the All-Black 1976 Revival of Guys and Dolls On Broadway

Photo Features   Look Back at the All-Black 1976 Revival of Guys and Dolls On Broadway
The production, featuring Motown musical arrangements, opened at the Broadway Theatre July 21, 1976.
Guys_and_Dolls_Broadway_Production_Photo_1976_Ken Page, Christophe Pierre & Sterling McQueen_HR.jpg
Ken Page, Christophe Pierre, and Sterling McQueen Martha Swope/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

The all-Black revival of Guys and Dolls opened at the Broadway Theatre July 21, 1976. The production, featuring Motown-style musical arrangements by Danny Holgate and Horace Ott and choral arrangements by Howard Roberts, played 12 previews and 239 performances before closing February 13, 1977, earning three Tony nominations, including Most Innovative Production of a Revival.

Based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls tells the tale of a fly-by-night gambler who attempts to woo a Salvation Army missioner for a $1,000 bet. Meanwhile, a beleaguered showgirl tries to hook her fiancé of 14 years, the founder of "the oldest, established, permanent, floating crap game in New York." The musical features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

In a 1976 interview with The New York Times ahead of the production’s opening, director and choreography Billy Wilson elaborated on his approach to adapting the production for an all-Black cast. “It's not so much the changing of words that makes the difference. It's the delivery. We have such rich attitudes among Blacks. It's something that's intrinsic with us. It isn't what you say, it's how you say it, which is beautiful to me.”

The revival starred Robert Guillaume as Nathan Detroit, Norma Donaldson as Miss Adelaide, Ernestine Jackson as Sarah Brown, James Randolph as Sky Masterson, Edye Byrde as General Matilda B. Cartwright, Clark Morgan as Lt. Brannigan, Ken Page as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Christophe Pierre as Benny Southstreet, and Emett “Babe” Wallace as Arvide Abernathy. Rounding out the cast were Derrick Bell, Toney Brealond, Jymie Charles, Bardell Conner, Prudence Darby, Irene Datcher, Alvin Davis, Jacquelyn DuBois, Anna Maria Fowlkes, Helen Gelzer, Nathan Jennings, Jr., Julia Lema, Bill Mackey, Sterling McQueen, Marion Moore, John Russell, Jacqueline Smith-Lee, Andy Torres, Freda T. Vanterpool, Walter White, and Eddie Wright, Jr.

Guys and Dolls featured scenic design by Tom H. John, costume design by Bernard Johnson, lighting design by Thomas Skelton, and sound design by Sander Hacker with stage management by R. Derek Swire, Clinton Jackson, and Bonnie Sue Schloss. Visit the Playbill Vault for the complete cast and creative team.

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