Guys and Dolls

Thu 31st May – Sat 2nd June 2012

reviews

Lizhi Howard

at 03:50 on 1st Jun 2012

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‘Guys and Dolls’ is a very American musical. Set in New York around about the 1950s there is gangsters, guns and a trip to Havana. It tells the story of Nathan and Adelaide the ‘Hot Box’ dancer who have been engaged for 14 years and of gambler Sky Masterson who takes missionary Sarah Brown to Havana in order to win a bet. It’s a really feel-good tale, with some great and memorable tunes. The Eglesfield Music Society have done well with this charming garden show and have produced what could be the best musical of the year.

The location is very beautiful. In a back quad of The Queen's College the stage area is provided on a patio in front of a wall. Set wise the approach is minimalistic, with a few benches and a table being manipulated to create all spaces on stage. The band is seated onstage under a large tree and the space is warmly and subtly lit. All the musicians are dressed in black and red, helping them blend with the actors on stage who are dressed in 1950’s New York fashions. Although it is great to have the band on stage as part of the action for a musical that is so driven by the force of its musical numbers it does present a challenge for the actors who cannot see the MD. That said, the musical numbers come together every well; all the actors have very good voices and there are wonderful harmonies dotted throughout.

The cast are all very talented and work together well. Fen Greatley (Nathan) and Hannah Bristow (Adelaide) have excellent chemistry together and provide some of the funniest scenes. However, they also shine separately from each other. Greatley is always engaged in his scenes and is utterly in control of his character and accent. Bristow brings a lot of heart to her portrayal of Adelaide making her comic without being stupid. She also has a wonderful voice, with her rendition of ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ being one of the best of the production. These two are clearly very talented, but the rest of the cast far from pale in comparison. Rose Rands as Sarah has a very beautiful voice and in her version of ‘If I Were a Bell’ she makes the transition from prim missionary girl to inebriated Havana tourist convincingly. She and Bristow also work very well in their duet together. Euan Campbell plays Sky Masterson in a strong and likeable way; the audience are just as hopeful as he is that his luck will hold out in ‘Luck be a Lady.’ There were unfortunately a few issues with volume throughout and I did feel that a few scenes could have done with a little more rehearsal and direction, only picking up again when the actors had dialogue to rely on.

The most comic moments of the production were provided by Ed Scrivens as Nicely-Nicely. Watch out for his brilliant facial expressions as well as his timing and delivery. He takes his chance to shine in ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’ which is both funny and heart-warming. Justin Drennan also provides humour as the much maligned Brannigan and Fred Woodcock as Benny Southstreet produces a star turn in the scene in the mission.

The choreography is simple, but very effective. ‘Take Back Your Mink’ got some of the largest laughs of the night but one or two of the numbers could do with a bit more polish. The ensemble work very well together and with the band provide a delightful production of great musical numbers and comedic turns. Even the guides dotted around college to help the audience find their way are engaged with the production.

'Guys and Dolls' is a real feel-good show. Grab yourself a bottle of bourbon and a blanket and go down to The Queens College. The cast are great and the show a gem.

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