Robert Aldus performed the Australian national anthem. The audition was his wife’s idea; he needed a more productive way to spend the nights, she thought. Bob demolished houses for a living and tended towards depression. The auditions were in the Lake McDonald Community Centre. Robert practiced the second verse for good measure. Halfway through the audition, Señor Román del Fuego, the director, raised his hand like a traffic controller. ‘Thank you,’ he smiled. ‘That will be all.’ Bob went home and cracked open another beer.
Lionel Davies thought that he’d wowed the selection panel with his version of ‘Luck, Be a Lady Tonight’. He didn’t get a callback.
Desmond Nicholson had seen the original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls on his honeymoon. Sixty-three years later, he remembered the night in colourful detail.
April 5, 1951. The Rosenbergs had just been sentenced to death; the streets of New York were aflame with red flags. It was as good a night as any for the theatre. The next day, Des and Ralene went riding in Pennsylvania. Des didn’t see what happened; he found his wife late in the afternoon. She was lying in the shade of a tree, holding her side, whimpering. The horse was in a clearing, stripping bark from a spruce. Within seven days, Des had returned to Australia. His wife came later in a wooden box.
Whenever Des thought about Ralene, he remembered that night at the 46th Street Theatre. ‘Guys and Dolls means the world to me,’ Des whispered. The production team listened patiently to his story. Señor del Fuego nodded, then led the old man to the door. ‘What you must remember,’ the director said, ‘is that Sky Masterson is a man in his prime. A traveller with no baggage.’ Desmond sniffed. He tipped his hat and walked to the lake, where he thought about his wife some more.
Glen Richards had never been to the library. A stranger at the bus stop told him about the services available. Glen eyed the man carefully. Free movies? It was too good to be true; it was true. The library had two copies of the 1955 Samuel Goldwyn production of Guys and Dolls, starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. Both were damaged. As alternatives, the librarian recommended On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. Glen went with The Godfather. He watched it over and over again, skipping through the non-Vito Corleone scenes. At the audition, Señor del Fuego asked Glen why he had cotton wool in his mouth. Glen replied that he was a method actor.
Regina Williams also auditioned for the role of Sky Masterson. Del Fuego asked if she’d like to audition for Adelaide or Sarah Brown. Regina was crystal clear: it was Sky or nothing. ‘And the Havana scene?’ del Fuego asked. ‘When Sky falls in love with Sarah Brown.’ He danced his black eyebrows. ‘It is very intimate, you know. Do you have a problem with this?’ Regina, who had silver-green hair, shaved and parted to the side, stared at del Fuego. ‘Do you have a problem with this?’
Roy Dixon’s audition was cut short. A dominion of girl guides from the Lake McDonald chapter pushed through the double doors. The leader marched up to the stage. ‘We’d like our hall back now, mister.’ Señor del Fuego threw his arms in the air; he massaged his temples ‘I can’t work in these conditions!’ he said.
Blake Solomon was the straw that broke del Fuego’s back. It was the last day of auditions. Del Fuego had parts for Nathan Detroit, Nicely Nicely, but not Sky Masterson. Blake, frozen with stage fright, had forgotten the words. He was supposed to sing ‘I’ll Know’. The only song that came to mind was ‘Adelaide’s Lament’. He started singing: ‘The average unmarried female, basically insecure …’ Señor del Fuego laughed hysterically and walked out. That night, he called London, where his nephew studied musical theatre. Del Fuego would increase ticket prices to pay for Ignacio’s flight. There was another role he needed him to fill.
Andrew Last is completing his Masters in Creative Writing at QUT. He works in a souvenir store. He’s into birds. You can email him at andrew.stewart.last.at.gmail.com.