Guys and Dolls and the Sky Masterson Part for Joseph Mahowald

He's been a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall; played on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde, Les Miz and The Pirate Queen; and appeared in film and soaps and taken starring roles in regional theater and on national tour.

But there was one coveted role that always escaped Joseph Mahowald: the Sky Masterson part in Guys and Dolls. Now, thanks to Houston and Theatre Under the Stars, Mahowald's finally got it.

"I played pretty much every classic leading man in every musical and this is the one that has eluded me," he told Art Attack. "So I'm thrilled to be doing it here."

"Certainly the music is among the best ever written for the genre and the characters are so very recognizable they have almost become verbs. You have to Sky Masterson that or Nathan Detroit that. Everybody knows it and everybody has their own feelings about it. This piece is so successful overall because it touches human emotions."

Mahowald was born and raised in South Dakota, distinguishing himself in singing. He and two other members of his high school won a national choral award. He got the highest marks possible in state competitions.

At 15, he was playing and singing in a bar band. "I don't know what my parents were thinking," he deadpans. "Actually, I've never had a normal job."

He began college intending to be a business major but that was a non-starter, and after two years he transferred from the University of South Dakota to the University of Cincinnati's prestigious Conservatory of Music.

Upon graduation from there, he relocated to Nashville (his new wife's hometown), where he was a co- founding member of the artistic company of Tennessee Repertory Theatre.

"Over the next five years I did almost 15 shows -- Shakespeare, American classics, some musicals, original work. It was a terrific proving ground." But eventually, he and his wife decided to go try for the big time, he said. "That inevitable place was New York, so in the fall of '89 we packed up and moved to Queens. We've been there ever since."

A friend putting together a charity benefit called on Mahowald for his Carnegie Hall appearance, an experience he talks about with awe. "Sitting there backstage, looking around, thinking this is where the Beatles performed; this is where every major musician in the last 100 years has looked at this back hallway."

As for his upcoming TUTS performance, he says he's "delighted to be back with TUTS (he was last here in 9 to 5), and delighted to be working with my friend, Miss America, Susan Powell, and the cast is phenomenal. They click like a well-oiled machine."

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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