ACT - Guys and DollsWhen the curtain rose at the Capitol Theatre this past weekend, audiences were plunged into an electrifying spectacle that reinvigorated Windsor’s artistic landscape. With its ambitious production of “Guys and Dolls,” Arts Collective Theatre (ACT) crowned its ninth season, themed “Life in Colour,” with a level of grandeur seldom seen in Southwestern Ontario. It felt more like Broadway than it did University Avenue.

The storied Capitol Theatre served as the canvas for director Chris Rabideau’s vivid reimagining of this 1950s-set musical comedy. Rabideau, already Windsor’s most ambitious producer and director, managed to infuse this classic with daring novelty and stylish flair.


The set, easily the most elaborate ACT has ever constructed, transported audiences to a hyperreal 1950s New York, bustling with passion and energy. The stage’s dimensions seemed to expand and contract effortlessly, thanks to the frequent use of the Capitol’s massive fly tower, for smooth scene transition from the city, to the Mission to The Hot Box.

The musical arrangement, a towering achievement by musical director Ian Smith, infused the traditional score with nuanced touches of Motown and Detroit. This not only modernized the production but gave it an entirely new lease on life. Smith’s direction harmonized seamlessly with the production’s larger ambitions of rethinking familiar themes and characters through a multicultural and multi-coloured lens.

In a company celebrated for its diversity, the casting for “Guys and Dolls” followed suit. Among the myriad of stand-out performances, the vocals were particularly noteworthy. The “guys”, Michael Rice as Nathan Detroit and Gianluca Ieraci as Sky Masterson, captivated with their riveting vocal range and emotional nuance. Equally, the “dolls”, particularly Avonlea Smith as Adelaide and Jamie Brown Hart as Sarah Brown, brought heartfelt performances to the stage, their voices swelling in musical eloquence.

A revelation, however, was Jim Walls as Arvide Abernathy. His vocal performance added an unexpected layer of depth, captivating the audience and elevating the production into an emotionally complex spectacle that was both unforeseen and happily welcomed.

Kyle Cloutier, who played Nicely Nicely Johnson, was a magnetic presence, stealing scenes with remarkable ease. His chemistry with Ian MacDonald’s Benny Southstreet was undeniable, forming a comic duo that was a consistent delight. Carson Diemer as Rusty Charlie, Peter Corio as Harry the Horse, and Jeff Wilkinson as Lt. Brannigan provided additional layers of complexity to the underworld setting, each giving a nuanced performance that never fell into caricature.

In the roles of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown, Gianluca leraci and Jamie Brown Hart captivated the audience with their romantic tension and impressive vocal range. Michael Rice’s portrayal of Nathan Detroit broke new ground for the character, bringing a fresh and vibrant energy that synergized well with Avonlea Smith’s Adelaide. Josie Elysia also shook the walls with her massive voice as Agatha.

The supporting ensemble cast, from Flo Ndimubandi’s groundbreaking Big Jule to Heidi Richards’ authoritative General Cartwright, all added indispensable touches that elevated the production. The Hot Box Girls—Jolie Katembo, Natalie Garrod, Marissa Dodich, Abbey Labine, Justine Thompson-Fisher, and Sela Taylor—each brought their unique flair to the stage, contributing to the overall air of sexiness during the heated Hot Box performances. The ensemble, consisting of figures like Kristoff Fagen, Helena Lumumba, Davison Treleaven, Bryson Culp, Adam Hamoud, Daniel Akinbinu, Bill Dileva, Grace Gaston, Yemi Adeyeye, Nick Estok-L and Randle Carpenter, provided the backbone of the show, filling the Capitol Theatre stage with vitality, rounding out what can only be described as an exceptional and memorable production.

ACT - Guys and Dolls

Hanging out at The Hot Box in ACTS’s Guys and Dolls at the Capitol Theatre in Windsor. Photo by John Chan.

Costume design was another sphere where the production was unmatched. Grand and audacious, the costumes portrayed the characters in a light that was both striking and slightly provocative. Particularly noteworthy were the Hot Box performances, which were, in a word, scintillating, achieving that elusive balance that was both playful and alluring, as one may have expected in that type of establishment in the 1950s.

But the soul of this production undoubtedly belonged to Chris Rabideau. He not only rekindled the passion for the old musical, but also took considerable risks in areas like casting and set design, making the experience uniquely enriching. Whether it was the casting of the entire mission band as people of color or reimagining the character of Big Jule as a strong and beautiful Black woman, Rabideau never shied away from making bold statements.

His personal connection to “Guys and Dolls” since high school has perhaps imbued the musical with added sentiment, making this not just another production but an artistic milestone for Rabideau and ACT alike.

With ACT’s latest production, “Guys and Dolls” becomes not just a throwback to an earlier era but a pioneering venture into the possibilities of modern theatre. It also signifies the company’s unwavering commitment to social issues, from diverse casting to female empowerment. If “Guys and Dolls” is any indication, Windsor’s theatre scene will continue to resonate with fresh, incisive interpretations of classic and contemporary works alike.

The Capitol Theatre hosts “Guys and Dolls” once again this coming weekend (Oct. 20, 21 and 22), and if you have not yet been part of this technicolor dream, the stage is set. For more, visit

ACT - Guys and Dolls

Feel Free to Leave a Comment