Show History



Producers, Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, conceived Guys and Dolls as an adaptation of author, Damon Runyon's, short stories. These stories centered on the underground crime scene of the 1920s and 1930s, utilizing a unique dialect that combines formal language with modern slang. The book takes its plot mainly from two of Runyon's stories, The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown and Blood Pressure, although they also took some elements from Pick the Winner.

Initially, Jo Swerling was hired to write the book, but they later brought in radio comedy writer, Abe Burrows, to write a new version. Burrows faced the unique challenge of having to write his plot around Frank Loesser's already-established songs.


Guys and Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, premiered at the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway on November 24, 1950. It was directed by playwright, George S. Kaufman, and starred Robert Alda (father of Alan Alda) as Sky.  The production ran for 1,200 performances. The New York City Center also mounted limited engagements of the musical in 1955, 1965 and 1966.

In 1976, it enjoyed its first Broadway revival; a reimagining of the show with an all-black cast. It featured new musical arrangements in the style of Motown and was under the supervision of book writer, Abe Burrows. It ran from July 21, 1976, to February 13, 1977. Another extremely successful revival was mounted in 1992, starring Nathan Lane, Peter Gallagher and Faith Prince. The most recent revival ran from March 1, to June 14, 2009, and featured Oliver Platt and Lauren Graham.

The musical has received a significant amount of play in England. The West End premiere of the musical was on May 28, 1953, at the London Coliseum. In 1982, there was a major revival at the National Theatre with brassier orchestrations and larger-scale dance numbers. It opened on March 9, 1982, and became a smash hit, running for nearly four years and breaking box office records. It closed in late 1983 to make way for another show, but returned to the National Theatre for five months in 1984 before going on a national tour. After the tour, it moved to the Prince of Wales Theatre, where it ran from June 1985 to April 1986. Two more successful revivals in London happened in 1996 and 2005; the latter originally starred Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowski and Douglas Hodge, running for almost two years with a plan to transfer to Broadway.

Alhough the musical has seen its greatest popularity in New York and London, it has spurned major productions all over the world. Also, in August of 2009, a concert version was produced at the Hollywood Bowl in California that featured Scott Bakula, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ellen Greene and Jessica Biel.

Cultural Influence

  • Loesser's songs have received significant coverage as singles in the pop world. "A Bushel and a Peck" reached #6 on the Billboard charts with a cover by Perry Como and Betty Hutton. Miles Davis arranged "If I Were a Bell" into a very popular jazz standard used by many different musicians. Frank Sinatra turned "Luck Be a Lady" into a signature song, and "I've Never Been in Love Before" has been covered by everyone from Doris Day and Bobby Darin to Chet Baker and Barbra Streisand.
  • The musical has been used in various capacities throughout movies and television. Those range from parodies of the title for titles of television episodes to the use of the music in pieces like: Mrs. Doubtfire, "The Cosby Show," "Glee," "The Simpsons" and "NCIS." Many television commercials have also used Frank Sinatra's version of "Luck Be a Lady."


  • Laurence Olivier once showed an interest in playing Nathan Detroit and helped plan a revival of the musical at his National Theatre Company but, due to his poor health, the revival never went forward.
  • The character of Miss Adelaide was created specifically for actress, Vivian Blaine, as the creators loved her but thought she was not right for the role of Sarah.
  • A film adaptation of Guys and Dolls was released in 1955 that starred Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine.
  • The original production of Guys and Dolls got what might be the most unanimously ecstatic reviews in Broadway history. The year it opened, it received a record-breaking one million dollars for the motion picture rights.
  • Kept from the wrestling team because of a knee injury, a teenaged Tom Cruise auditioned and won the role of Nathan Detroit in his Glen Ridge, NJ, high school production of Guys and Dolls... and so began his acting career.