In the 1955 movie “Guys and Dolls,” Marlon Brando’s singing voice wasn’t really put to the test as Sky Masterson, and for good reason. He couldn’t sing. In the Schenectady Light Opera Company stage production running today and later this week in downtown Schenectady, Sky Masterson’s vocal chords do get a lot more work thanks to the talents of Andrew Elder, an Ohio native and Niskayuna resident who, unlike Brando, feels right at home musically.
With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, “Guys and Dolls” won five Tonys, including Best Musical, when it was first produced on Broadway in 1950.
Based on a short story by Damon Runyon, “Guys and Dolls” is the story of a gambler who will virtually bet on anything. Elder’s turn as Masterson is his debut at SLOC, and his first theater performance in quite some time.
While Elder acted all through childhood and through college, his performances as an adult were mostly musical ones as a member of an acoustic rock n’ roll band and most recently as a duo named Hearty, Hearty Love with his wife, Courtney. Along with his musical gigs and his involvement with the theater, Elder works full time as a health care sales trainer at MVP.
‘Guys and Dolls’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company
WHEN: Runs through Oct. 20; performance times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 877-350-7378 or sloctheater.org
He is also a cancer survivor, having beaten colon cancer in 2007. Before Thursday night’s performance of “Guys and Dolls,” a fundraiser to fight colon cancer will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and the Colon Club’s new 2014 “Colondar,” showing young survivors of cancer, will be released. Elder is a former model for the “Colondar.”
Q: Why did you get back into the theater?
A: I missed it. I missed it a lot. I finally got my life and my career settled to the point where I felt like I could start expanding that area of passion I have. I’m in a much more happy and settled place now.
Q: How much theater did you do when you were younger?
A: I’ve been doing theater since I was in kindergarten, so basically my whole life. I think it was a way of getting attention and goofing off. I did a lot in high school at Millbrook School, a private school in Dutchess County, then I went into the Navy for four years, and when I got out I went to SUNY-Fredonia and got a degree in theater.
Q: What did you do after college?
A: I moved out to LA and got more plugged into music for a while. I did a lot of original acoustic rock, I didn’t do any theater, and was playing with a couple of different bands. But I always knew that getting back into theater was something I was going to do.
Q: Why “Guys and Dolls,” and why at SLOC?
A: I have been to a number of shows there over the years, and I always admired the high quality of their work, especially in light of the reputation that some community theater has. I followed their expansion and always thought it’d be a great place to get back into it. “Guys and Dolls” has been one of my favorite shows for a long time. I thought the movie was great and I’ve seen it performed on stage a couple of times.
Q: What’s your take on Sky Masterson?
A: I think he’s definitely a likable guy. He might seem like a con artist, but he’s actually quite honest with everyone early on. He’s a pretty straight shooter who’s the king bee of the gamblers. He’s got a lot of pride, but he is open to something new in his life. He has a bit of an eternal conflict, but he’s up front about it, except maybe with himself.
Q: Would you also do a non-musical play?
A: I have done a lot of straight plays in the past. I’ve done some Shakespeare and a few other plays, but I guess I do prefer musicals. I find them more fanciful, and it allows me to sing and dance, which I really enjoy.
Q: Is the stage production of “Guys and Dolls” a lot like the Hollywood movie?
A: It’s actually quite different, especially for Sky. Some of the songs are different, and I think there were some lines that were added specifically for the movie. Marlon Brando had never sung before, so I think they cut a lot of the songs just to make him feel more comfortable. He only sings “Luck Be a Lady” in the movie, but I have four songs instead of just the one like the movie. There’s a solo, two duets and an ensemble number, so I get to do a lot of singing.
Q: Now that you’re back into the theater, how often do you think you will perform?
A: I’m probably going to take a break after this show, and I don’t see myself doing a show every season. I’m still performing with my wife, so I probably won’t get back into the theater until the end of 2014. But, yeah, now that I have that taste again, I won’t stay away for long.
Q: How did your battle with cancer change your life?
A: It completely changed my life. Considering I didn’t die, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. I had my priorities out of whack, and was much more focused on material things. Now I’m focusing on meaningful work and the things that really matter. This focus helped me turn around a bad time financially in my life, and I’m much healthier now.