New Castle News

March 17, 2012

Photos, Video, Story: Young Sinatra fans fuel ‘Guys and Dolls’ at Shenango

Kayleen Cubbal
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — (Video highlights appear below the story.)

They might not might be listening to Frank Sinatra on their iPods, but these kids are the real deal.

The cast members of “Guys and Dolls,” Shenango High’s spring musical production, are living their roles in every sense of the word.

“My character has a really thick New York accent,” said senior Taylor Manolis, who snagged the coveted part of nightclub singer Adelaide. “I catch myself talking like that even when we’re not at practice. Once you get into character, it’s hard sometimes to get out of it.

“And I just love Frank Sinatra,” she added. “He’s totally one of my favorites.”

Manolis is not alone.

All of the main characters admitted to an affinity for old movies in general and in particular, Sinatra, a star of the 1955 musical film that also starred Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. Sinatra played gambler Nathan Detroit in the film, which featured a plot based on the activities of New York petty criminals and professional gamblers in the late 1940s.


Detroit is played by Donnie Mangino, a senior in his fifth production at Shenango. He hopes to continue his acting career at Clarion University, where he plans to major in English.

“Nathan Detroit is definitely a sly guy who runs a gambling ring,” Mangino said.  “All the gamblers rely on him and he has to find a place to conduct his games. He is very emotional, he worries a lot and is extremely nervous.

“I’ve always admired Frank Sinatra and was really thrilled to get the chance to play this role.”

Anthony Ventura landed the role of Sky Masterson, a gambler challenged to a key wager by Detroit. Ventura, a senior appearing in his second musical, is headed to Youngstown State University to major in musical production and voice.

Ventura is no stranger to Guys and Dolls — his cousin, Travis Ascione, played the role of Masterson in a production of the musical two years ago.

“I just loved this musical from the first time I saw it,” he said. “When my cousin played Sky, I had it in my mind that I hoped I would get the chance to play him someday.

“Playing a role such as this becomes your lifestyle. You find yourself living it, even when you’re not at practice.”


Director Paul Angelucci, a veteran of the New Castle Playhouse, is in his third year overseeing Shenango’s spring musical. He held tryouts in December and while students did not audition for a particular role, he said most of them just fell into place, such as Manolis, who has been taking singing lessons for several years and played the lead role in the production of “Annie” two years ago.

“We have an extremely talented cast,” Angelucci said. “Anthony (Ventura) is just an incredibly talented music person — he really ‘gets’ his music. I was really shocked at how just about all of these kids already had a clue about Frank Sinatra and what a musical like this was about. I didn’t have to sell them on it, they already were into it coming in.”

Brown’s part is played by Gina Albanese, a senior headed to Duquesne University to study pharmacy. She is in just her second musical since seventh grade.

“I got really involved in volleyball and was playing travel ball, so I just didn’t have the time to devote to a musical, but once volleyball ended this year, I was hoping to get a part in this one,” she said. “It’s really been fun playing Sarah. She is a sweet girl who is a good influence on everyone around her. She tries not to fall in love with Sky, but she just can’t help herself.”

Other major roles are played by Connor Watkins as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Matt Younger as Arvide Abernathy.

Watkins, a junior who plans attend the University of Cincinnati and major in English and theater, is making his third appearance in a musical at Shenango. He is another fan of both Sinatra and “Guys and Dolls.”

“Nicely-Nicely is one of many really dumb gangsters, but he’s a totally lovable, nice guy,” Watkins said. “I’ve really gotten into this character, it has been so much fun.”

Younger, a senior headed to Clarion University to major in music education, is involved in his 19th production overall, including six at Shenango. A childhood cancer survivor, he directed Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” at Shenango last fall, raising $4,100 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, easily exceeding his goal of $3,400.

He also has no problem admitting his love of Sinatra.

“A lot of kids these days have grown up in the rock genre, but you can’t match this type of music,” said Younger, whose character is a “good Christian” who assists Brown at the Save a Soul Mission.


Angelucci said that the commitment needed to succeed in a musical such as this one is immense.

“We have 54 cast members in this musical, as compared to 35 in our previous one, so it is a huge undertaking,” he said, adding that the talented orchestra is made up mainly of local musicians, including music teachers and retired music teachers.

“We’ve practiced five to six days a week for the past two months and some of these kids have been here for most of them,” he said. “It’s said that you run out of two things with a production like this — time and money. These kids are ready, we’re just tweaking things now. If anything goes wrong at this point, it’s on me because they’ve done everything I’ve asked of them.”

Ventura said the cast has nothing but respect for Angelucci.

“He’s a perfectionist, but he’s also great fun to work with,” Ventura said. “You just know going in that he’s going to put an a great show.

“I think I’ll be depressed for awhile when it’s all over — I’ll just feel lost,” he added. “This has just been an unbelievable experience.”


Cast of characters

Nicely-Nicely Johnson: Connor Watkins

Benny Southstreet: Nick Dombeck

Rusty Charley: Tristan Heilman

Sarah Brown: Gina Albanese

Arvide Abernathy: Matt Younger

Agatha  (Mission Band): Leah Cozza

Calvin (Mission Band): Kyle Carpenter

Martha (Mission Band): Marina Pisano

Marvin (Mission Band): Alan Herman

Lt. Brannigan: Cody Currie

Drunk: Craig Blose

Harry the Horse: Blake Scala

Nathan Detroit: Donnie Mangino

The Greek: Ronnie Davis    

Brandy Bottle Bates: Jake Cochran

Scranton Slim: Dalton Uber

Angie the Ox: Christian Davis

Liver Lips Louie: Zach Matuch

Society Max/ Master of Ceremony: Gabe Davis

Adelaide: Taylor Manolis

Sky Masterson: Anthony Ventura

Joey Biltmore: Devin Heinlein

Mimi/Hot Box Dancer: Emily Rigotti

General Cartwright: Damara Deal

Big Jule: Kevin Younger

Mission Band Members: Jenna DiGiammarino, Christa Bupp, Mikayla Radice

Hot Box Dancers: Allyssa Alwine, Kaitlyn Shaffer, Allie Speis, Chandler Waskin, Miriah Mascetta, Rachel Reamer, Jenna Cochran, Hannah Budzowski

Havana Dancers: Elizabeth Salem, Carly Danielson, Juliana McCandless, Megan Harding, Briana Bartley, Briana Watkins, Jayci Ross, Rachel Burger

Women's Ensemble: Ciara Kleckner, Elaina Chapnell, Brielle Braun, Kellie DeLorenzo, Mackenzie McGahan, Alexis Sparano, Kristen Younger, Cassandra McCowin, Celeste Genareo, Julie DiGiammarino