Tuesday, June 1, 2004

 

A realistic 'Guys and Dolls'

By MICHAEL KAABE
CORRESPONDENT

When it comes to Bob Cuccioli's artistic talent and accomplishment, the sky's the limit. And when Cuccioli makes his entrance on stage in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of "Guys and Dolls" this week, it will be his 10th appearance there.


GUYS AND DOLLS
Tomorrow through July 18
Paper Mill Playhouse
Brookside Drive, Millburn
$30-$67
(973) 376-4343


 

"I love working at Paper Mill Playhouse," said an enthusiastic Cuccioli last week. "I'm having a fabulous time in this classic show, with a truly talented cast and a wonderful, insightful director."

Cuccioli will be playing the leading role of Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls," the famous musical fable of Broadway based on a story and characters created by Damon Runyon with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling. Over the years, Cuccioli has had the distinction of appearing in leading roles of the Paper Mill productions of "Funny Girl," "Oklahoma!" and "Lend Me a Tenor," most recently appearing as Captain Georg Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music."

Now that he's back in the theater he calls home, Cuccioli explained his personal reason for being excited about doing this particular show.

"People hear the title 'Guys and Dolls' and immediately think of the story, the characters and the songs (some of which that have become standards e.g. 'Luck Be a Lady,' 'A Bushel and a Peck'. . . etc.) and they will certainly get all that they expect," he said. "But my personal thrill is getting to work with the show's director, Stafford Arima. He is just wonderful in that he encourages each of us to explore the depth of the character that we're playing and find the real soul of that character. His whole approach to the show is to underscore the true elements of the characters and the story."

"In the role I'm playing, I learned that the character of Sky Masterson is based on a short story written by Damon Runyon," Cuccioli explained. "Sky is by no means a cartoon character. He is a real, interesting person with tremendous depth. In the show he goes on this journey that is amusing and colorful but also has a dark side to it. The world of 'Guys and Dolls' is a dangerous one, and in this production we highlight the reality of the story, the humanity of the characters and the world (whether it be lighthearted or dark and gritty) in which it all takes place."


Bob Cuccioli plays the leading role of Sky Masterson in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of "Guys and Dolls."

Like Sky Masterson, Cuccioli has gone on a journey.

Once upon a time, Cuccioli was a financial analyst for E.F. Hutton, studying drama and voice privately. "My first musical roles were with the (now defunct) Light Opera of Manhattan," he explained. "I would be playing musical leads at night and working during the day."

Cuccioli handled two jobs for about a year and a half. With doors opening up for him in regional houses, he was able to give up his day job.

"My real training for the stage was all 'on the job training' because everything I know about being an actor I learned from playing regional houses. My teacher was my audiences," he said.

Eventually, Cuccioli landed a role in Broadway's "Les Mis," and that led to landing the leading role in Broadway's "Jekyll & Hyde."

"It was 15 years from the time I started getting roles in regional theaters to the time I landed a Broadway role -- people call that an overnight success."

Cuccioli has also directed several noted productions of "Jekyll & Hyde" and has directed an acclaimed production of "The Glass Menagerie" for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. He will be returning there this fall to star in "Macbeth."

It's been some journey, and yes, Sky's the limit.

But right now, Cuccioli beams with joy as he talks about this show and his fellow actors.

"I'm working with a wonderful company that includes Karen Ziemba as Miss Adelaide, Michael Mastro as Nathan Detroit and Kate Baldwin as Sarah Brown. We're all just having a blast. It's going to be a really great show."

ŠAsbury Park Press published with permission of the Paper Mill Theatre