The Characters of the Broadway Show "Guys & Dolls"

by Carlos Mano

"Guys and Dolls" is a Broadway musical based on characters and situations from Damon Runyon's "Broadway Stories." It is a double love story and a musical comedy with all the lovable Runyon characters -- a killer with a heart of gold and names such as Harry the Horse and Nicely NIcely Johnson. It is also a story of good and evil and a lighthearted view of the New York underworld in the early 20th century.

Sky Masterson

Sky Masterson is the lead character in the story. He is a strong, macho man who lives by gambling. He is used to getting any woman he wants. The central theme in the story starts with his friend Nathan Detroit betting against Sky Masterson's ability to take any woman that Nathan names to Cuba for the weekend. Through the course of the play, Masterson is the character who changes the most. He starts as a coldhearted womanizer taking advantage of a woman to win a bet and ends up falling in love with her.

Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is a young woman who works for the Salvation Army. Her interest in underworld criminals is in saving their souls -- turning them away from gambling and toward the church. When the story opens, Sarah Brown and the Salvation Army are largely ignored by the gangsters. She plays several different roles in the play but remains the same sensible person throughout. She is strait-laced and uptight in the beginning and madly in love by the end of the story.

Nathan Detroit

Nathan Detroit is a gangster with a good heart but weak moral fiber. He has little interest in going straight or settling down. He is always looking for a break that never comes. He wants to continue his gambling and loose living forever. At the beginning of the story, he bets his friend Sky Masterson a thousand dollars that he knows a doll whom Masterson cannot take to Cuba for the weekend. Nathan thinks he has a sure bet, because the woman he has in mind is Sarah Brown.


Adelaide is Nathan Detroit's girlfriend of 14 years. She wants to get married and settle down -- far from Broadway. Her attempts to lure Nathan away from the underworld and the sporting life are a background subplot for the rest of the story. She is a comically sincere character throughout the play. She is hopelessly and completely in love with Nathan, and it shows in every scene. She is a one-note character, but it is a great note, and she plays it loud. Adelaide and Nicely Nicely Johnson have the best and the funniest lines in the play.

Other Supporting Characters

Nicely Nicely Johnson, Nathan Detroit's best friend, not only has some of the funniest lines in the show, he also sings what is perhaps the most memorable song: "Sit down, you're rocking the boat." Benny Southstreet is a friend of Nicely Nicely Johnson and one of the gamblers in the ongoing floating crap game. Arvide Abernathy, older and wiser than most of the other characters, is the director of the save-a-soul mission where Sarah Brown works -- he is also her grandfather.

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