When Lauren Graham was cast as Miss Adelaide, the well-known fiancée with a chronic cold, in the revival of Guys and Dolls, the talented star of television's "Gilmore Girls" knew she was taking a chance by making her Broadway debut in an iconic role in a beloved musical.
"You can't say to people, 'I can do it' —it just doesn't sound good," she says. "But with any job, you have to believe that you can serve what you're doing. I never do anything out of ego or recklessness. There are things I've turned down because I don't think I'd be very good in them. I started working on this part a long time ago, after I got a call asking me if I'd be interested in auditioning, to be sure that I could honor such an amazing role. I have such reverence for New York theatre. My dad began taking me when I was a kid, and it's what I grew up dreaming about doing."
The revival of the Frank Loesser–Jo Swerling–Abe Burrows classic co-stars Oliver Platt (as Nathan Detroit), Craig Bierko (Sky Masterson) and Kate Jennings Grant (Sarah Brown). Director Des McAnuff has set the production in the 1930s, the period of the Damon Runyon stories that inspired the show, which is more than a decade earlier than is customary. "It's a somewhat grittier New York," says Graham, "and there are parallels to today."
Graham explored every facet of Adelaide's life in order to understand the character more completely. "No matter whether you're doing a musical or a serious drama, you try to get in touch with the reality of the time and the place and the people," she says. "Adelaide's a blonde because I thought she would have liked Jean Harlow, who was a big star in the 1930s. Harlow had street smarts but was also a looker, and that would have appealed to Adelaide. This is a woman who works as a stripper at a club, and I kept thinking, 'What's that life? How much does she get paid? Where does she live?' She fantasizes about getting out of Manhattan, and she's with a guy who not only has commitment issues, but is a gambler. It was helpful to realize she's with an addict. Our director is really vested in the relationships: these are real people. They talk how they talk, and that's the comedy. The show is so beautifully constructed, the language is so clean, you don't need to add very much. And there's a certain music to it and size to it that dictates how you play it. The challenge with this part is letting it be and not messing with it, not trying to add too many things. It's one of the best books of a musical ever written. The job is to respect it and treat it right."