'Guys and Dolls' in wine country

From left, Tara Brinkman, Tony Costa, Kristen Saunders and Chad Stevens in Wine Country Theatreâ™s "Guys and Dolls."
From left, Tara Brinkman, Tony Costa, Kristen Saunders and Chad Stevens in Wine Country Theatreâ™s "Guys and Dolls."

A new community theater company wants to bring intoxicating entertainment to the North County.

Wine Country Theatre will present the Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls,” its second production, starting Friday in Paso Robles. 

“Paso is really set for the arts to proliferate,” said production director Cynthia Anthony, noting that music and the visual arts have flourished north of the Cuesta Grade in recent years. 

Now, she added, it’s theater’s turn to shine. 

Before founding Wine Country Theatre, Anthony served as executive director of Paso Robles’ Pioneer Players and San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, and managing director of what is now Opera San Luis Obispo. She also taught drama at Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, Nipomo High School and Paso Robles High School. 

With Wine Country Theatre, Anthony hopes to combat what she sees as a lack of options for North County theater lovers and performers alike. 

“The talent doesn’t have any place to perform (here),” said Anthony, who co-founded the now-defunct Classic American Theatre in Paso Robles. “If people want to be in shows, they’ve got to go to San Luis Obispo or Cambria.” 

After directing REC Foundation productions of “Man of La Mancha” in 2012 and “South Pacific” in 2013, Anthony teamed up with Larry and April Gomez, owners of Via Vega Winery in Paso Robles, to present the romantic comedy “It Had to Be You” in February. 

“People really enjoyed it and talked a lot to us about (how) ‘Gosh, there’s just not a lot of chances to see theater up here,’ ” Anthony said. “That’s what prompted us to keep going.”

Unfortunately, local fire officials told Wine Country Theatre that the company couldn’t continue to do productions there, so the company sought out a more conventional venue: the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation’s Berg Auditorium. 

The 100-seat space will offer an intimate setting for “Guys and Dolls,” which features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. 

Based on the stories of Damon Runyon, the Tony Award-winning musical revolves around a bet between gamblers Nathan Detroit (Chad Stevens) and Sky Masterson (Tony Costa). Sky must take a “doll” — religious crusader Sarah Brown (Tara Brinkman) — to dinner in Havana, Cuba. 

Meanwhile, Nathan reexamines his own romance with his longtime fiancé, showgirl Miss Adelaide (Kristen Saunders). 

 Anthony said “Guys and Dolls,” which features a cast of 25 performing such songs as “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” represents a big test for the company.

“Will we attract an audience?” she asked. “We have to come up to that challenge sometime.”

According to Anthony, Wine Country Theatre will perform similar crowd-pleasers in the future. She hopes to eventually find a permanent home, preferably in a winery setting. 

Alternately, she said, the company could be poised to move into a performing arts center in downtown Paso Robles, if plans for the Pine Street Promenade project go through. The development, which would include a hotel, parking structure and public market, could open within two years depending on city officials’ decision this summer.  

“We’re trying to sustain a theater company and really be prepared (for when) that opportunity comes along,” Anthony said. 


"Guys and Dolls"

7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, July 5, 11 and 18; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. July 19 

Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, 3201 Spring St., Paso Robles 

$25, $15 students

221-5717 or http://winecountry theatre.com