Guys and Dolls and Miss America at the Hobby

Former Miss America Susan Powell was a classically trained singer, but opted for musical theater over opera because (a) she didn't want to starve and (b) the only way to avoid (a) was to work in Europe and she didn't want to do that early on in her career.

But she brings all that training and power to the role of Sarah Brown in a production of the classic Guys and Dolls that Theatre Under the Stars is bringing to the Hobby Center beginning September 27. And it fits because the late songwriter Frank Loesser was known for being "almost operatic in scope," she told Art Attack. Loesser's music often dictated the dialog; "it evokes the exact right mood as you enter a scene."

"Sarah Brown is a righteous, hardworking single woman, perpetually single because she has created in her mind a life that is probably unrealistic," Powell said. "Her journey in this show goes from this righteous, staunch covered woman into this blossoming, warm, real person."

Powell, who has done a number of regional productions, playing leads in Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific and My Fair Lady (to name a few), has also sung with the New York City Opera. She also spent eight years on the Discovery Channel doing Home Matters, which she described as sort of a blue-collar Martha Stewart show.

This is her second time to tackle the Sarah Brown part -- the first was 25 years ago -- and says that even though "it's timeless," it is different for her now. "In a way, it's so fun to get to revisit it because so much of it has so much deeper meaning for me now."

"The book and the music and the story are just perfection," she said, although she allowed that sometimes she curses the name of Jo Loesser -- the writer's second wife, who was a soprano and for whom Frank customized the song's notes. First produced on Broadway in 1950, the show was based on some Damon Runyon short stories.

"Musicals are very difficult," Powell said. "It's a very difficult art form to make it work, and if you've ever seen a bad one [Art Attack just had a flashback to a production of Starlight Express she saw years ago], you know what I mean."

And even if you've seen the 1955 Marlon Brando/Frank Sinatra movie version (a classic in its own right) of Guys and Dolls, Powell said, it's worth coming out to see the stage musical "so flawlessly written" that "it was one of probably three or four shows that set the standard for everything you see in theater today."

The Theatre Under the Stars production of Guys and Dolls runs September 27 through October 9 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For tickets go to TUTS.com or call 713-558-8887.

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