Things go so badly awry at rehearsals for the Shaker Heights Middle School production of Guys and Dolls that Jack and Louisa, the school’s “resident theater nerds” and the stars of the musical, wonder if the show will go up.
After an overlong, dullish trip to New York City, the anticipation begins to build when Jack Goodrich and Louisa Benning audition for their school’s upcoming production of Guys and Dolls. They’re particularly excited because Belinda Grier, a real Broadway actress, has taken over as the director. But Belinda is not happy when she learns that Jack is a professional actor who has also appeared on Broadway. When Jack, in a clever scene, successfully teaches a group of soccer players some tricky choreography by comparing the dance steps to soccer moves, jealousy rears its ugly head. Soon Belinda, in the guise of pushing Jack to reach his full potential, is giving the seventh-grade boy a hard time during rehearsals. Louisa, who’s getting nothing but praise, is initially oblivious to Jack’s situation, but once she tunes in, she takes a courageous stance to help. Even though Belinda’s jealousy and complete turnaround are psychologically improbable, the story works and the resolution is suspenseful and uplifting.
Giving this story its lift is its profound and infectious love of musical theater. Budding thespians will applaud. (Fiction. 10-14)