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Michael Riedel, Jerry Zaks, Carolyn Mignini, GUYS AND DOLLS......
Posted by: Michael_Portantiere 12:20 pm EST 01/10/21

I recently watched Paul Wontorek's SHOW PEOPLE interview with Michael Riedel, and while there are many comments I could make about what Riedel has to say in the interview, I wanted to focus on one thing in particular:

During the interview, Riedel says he's very interested in stories of theater people making tough decisions that changed the course of theater history, and one example of this that he gives is.....the replacement of Carolyn Mignini with Josie de Guzman as Sarah Brown in the 1992 Broadway revival of GUYS AND DOLLS. As Riedel tells the story, director Jerry Zaks felt during previews that the show was not working. He eventually decided that the problem was a lack of chemistry between Mignini as Sarah and Peter Gallagher as Sky Masterson, and he felt that Mignini's performance was the problem. So, even though Mignini was a friend with whom Zaks had worked previously, he took the difficult step of firing her and replacing her with de Guzman. According to Riedel, that replacement suddenly made the whole show work and allowed it to become a hit that re-established the importance of musical comedy on Broadway, which in turn led to THE PRODUCERS, and so on....

This is certainly an interesting story, but to me, some of it doesn't quite ring true. My recollection is that, while de Guzman was praised for her lovely singing in GUYS AND DOLLS, she received no special praise for her acting or for her chemistry with Peter Gallagher. Although I did not see Mignini in the role, I can't imagine that her performance was inferior to the point that it would have made a huge difference in the way the show as a whole was going over.

So, did all of the above REALLY make the difference between that production of GUYS AND DOLLS flopping or becoming the huge hit it turned out to be? And does Riedel honestly believe this was the case, or is he just puffing up this story to make it more interesting? Although I haven't read SINGULAR SENSATION, his recently published second book on Broadway theater history, I did read and very much enjoyed the first one (RAZZLE DAZZLE). As I recall, that book contains several legit stories of people making tough decisions that did in fact change the course of theater history, but I'm skeptical that the replacement of Carolyn Mignini with Josie de Guzman in the 1992 revival of GUYS AND DOLLS is a good example of that.

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this.
Link SHOW PEOPLE interview with Michael Riedel
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