On November 24, 1950, the musical Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre. The musical was based on two short stories by Damon Runyon - ”The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure.” It ran for 1,200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was the fifth longest running musical in New York City in the 1950s.
Damon Runyon was well-known for his stories highlighting the culture of Broadway in New York during the 1920s and 1930s. He often wrote humorous fiction pieces about gangsters, gamblers, and hustlers and used a mixture of formal language and colorful slang in his written dialogue. Realizing that the characters Runyon created and the tales he spun were the perfect basis for a musical comedy, a team of New York creatives banded together to bring the musical to life. Songwriter Frank Loesser, producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, book writer Abe Burrows, and choreographer Michael Kidd were all native New Yorkers who related to the characters of Runyon’s stories and knew other New Yorkers would as well if they brought his stories to life.
The story followed the blossoming romance between gambler Sky Masterson and Salvation Army-esque missionary Sarah Brown. Nathan Detroit, another gambler, strikes up a wager with Sky, betting Sky that he won’t be able coax a “doll” of Nathan’s choice to go to dinner with him in Havana. The doll Nathan chooses is the very pious Sarah. Nathan’s side story involves the tricky set up of a floating craps game and his rocky love life with his fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, who is determined to marry Nathan. Other lively characters from sassy showgirls to avid gamblers fill in the missing pieces of the musical to round out an ostentatious and timeless show.
Guys and Dolls was met with immediate approval and success, and has been reprised both on the big screen in 1955 featuring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra and in productions all over the world, including some more recent Broadway revivals.