Luck, Be a Lady: Marriage as Gambling in GUYS & DOLLS

by KatH on February 10, 2010

in General MTI News,Guys And Dolls

Gambling features prominently in Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, and Abe Burrows’ musical, GUYS & DOLLS.  Finding a safe location for the floating crap game drives much of the story – as does Sky’s bet that he’ll take Sarah Brown, one of the Mission workers, to Havana.  But gambling is also an underlying theme of the musical.  Throughout the show, the characters clearly view marriage as a gamble, and gambling becomes entwined in both Nathan and Adelaide’s relationship and Sky and Sarah’s.

Sam Levene and Vivian Blaine are Nathan Detroit and Adelaide in the original produciton

Sam Levene and Vivian Blaine are Nathan Detroit and Adelaide in the original produciton

Many of the characters refer to marriage as a gamble.  When long-engaged Adelaide wants to elope, Nathan becomes increasingly nervous about the lack of preparation.  “Ain’t that unhealthy?” he asks when he hears that he and Adelaide wouldn’t even need a blood test if they eloped to Maryland, and one of his friends offers to lend Nathan his getaway car. Adelaide and Sarah come to accept that marriage – like gambling – contains a fair amount of risk. “You’ve simply got to gamble,” Adelaide admits.  “You get no guarantee,” Sarah agrees.  Sky’s view of marriage takes things even further, as he hopes that the way he meets his future wife will be similar to gambling.  “Mine will come as a surprise to me,” he tells Sarah.  “Mine, I leave to chance – to chemistry.”

Vivian Blaine and Isabel Bigley decide to marry the man today.

Vivian Blaine and Isabel Bigley decide to marry the man today.

Gambling also directly affects these two relationships.  Sky and Sarah meet and fall in love because of a bet, and Nathan finally commits to marrying Adelaide as cover for a craps game.  As soon as he meets Sarah, Sky treats the relationship as a gamble, even giving her his marker, and his way to win Sarah back is to promise her he’ll fill the Mission with gamblers – which he accomplishes by winning a bet.

By the end of the show, Sky and Sarah are married and both work at the Mission, where Nathan and Adelaide get married.  Despite all their concerns, the gamble these four take on each other seems to pay off.

Brad Curtis (Sky Masterson), Rachel Coloff (Sarah Brown), Peggy OConnell (Adelaide) and Wesley Rice (Nathan Detroit) in the Tacoma Actors Guild production

Brad Curtis (Sky Masterson), Rachel Coloff (Sarah Brown), Peggy O'Connell (Adelaide) and Wesley Rice (Nathan Detroit) in the Tacoma Actors' Guild production

To license GUYS & DOLLS, visit its MTI show page. Discuss this article and view production photos on its MTI ShowSpace page.

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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Sarah February 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    As shown in “Marry the Man Today,” Adelaide and Sarah only sort of gamble. They gamble, but only because they’re sure they can win. I believe the thought process is “I’ll gamble as long as I can pick what cards I’m dealt.” They intend on “chaning” their fiancees, whereas Sky and Nathan are gambling and taking a risk because there is no visible intent of changing their wives.

    KatH February 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    That’s a really good point! And that makes sense, because Sarah and Adelaide spend the show trying to stop Sky and Nathan from gambling. So they wouldn’t be willing to gamble completely, but they realize they have to take some risk.

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