Guys and Dolls

Mon 6th – Thu 9th May 2013

reviews

Michael McLeod

at 01:43 on 7th May 2013

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Guys and Dolls is undoubtedly one of the classic American musicals. A mainstay of musical theatre ever since the so called ‘Golden Age’, and sitting confidently among the most famous and celebrated works, it boasts songs which are singularly catchy and funny, and inspires infectiously energetic performances (this one being no exception). Unfortunately however, this production suffers from a lack of organisation and rehearsal, resulting in shaky deliveries from the cast, crew, and orchestra, alongside pedestrian direction and choreography.

The collective experience watching the show is rather uncomfortable, as many areas of the production feel distinctly amateur. Some of these will likely improve as the run progresses – set changes were too long and often clumsy, actors performed lines and even songs whilst remaining in poorly lit areas of the stage, technical glitches were all too common, and a number of actors forgot their lines on several occasions. Whilst one must forgive the occasional opening night mishap, together they add up to a noticeably unprepared performance.

The cast are competent singers, and despite sitting near the back the auditorium their voices generally carried over the orchestra nicely; Ros Dobson’s beautiful choral like soprano rings wonderfully true in her role as uptight mission worker Sarah Brown. Unfortunately however, the orchestral backing is not strong, slipping out of tune and occasionally not keeping precise time; for those who are fans of Frank Loesser’s punchy score this version may feel lacklustre. The cast are less confident in their spoken parts, and the acting often feels more like running lines than plausible characters. Slick gambler Sky Masterston (Jack Graham) and the righteous Sarah Brown lack conviction as both lovers and enemies, and it’s hard to feel affected by the ups and downs of their relationship (which arguably ought to be the centrepiece of the show). The performances are only rescued by the admirable Ellie Shaw and Alex Tsaptsinos (in their roles of Miss Adelaide and Nathan Detroit respectively), who share both on stage chemistry and sharp comedic instincts. Shaw in particular charms the audience with expressive comic vocal affectations (both in song and speech) and, as is often the case with ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ and ‘Marry the Man Today’ are the absolute highlights of the show.

Certainly worthy of praise is costume designer Hannah Murphy, who excelled herself in her role. In particular, her beautiful styling of the female cast is one of the show’s greatest strengths. From elegantly draped dresses augmented with pearls to decidedly cheekier affairs, the costumes are the central visuals in this production and meet the challenge with aplomb, creating an effortlessly cool vision of an iconic time in New York.

One can’t avoid admitting that ‘Guys and Dolls’ at the Pichette Auditorium is certainly flawed: if you’re a musical theatre cynic this performance is unlikely to convert you; if you’ve got musicals in your blood then this might just let you down. But this production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ brims with energy, and the joy of the cast and crew in putting the show together is palpable – which goes some way towards reminding us what amateur theatre is really all about.

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Anna Tankel

at 02:03 on 7th May 2013

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You expect to walk out of a musical with a spring in your step, and most of the audience at Pembroke College’s production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ did just that. The jazzy musical score was supported by sparkling performances from some of the cast, although the show was let down by some of the actors. If you’re simply after a sweet story, upbeat music and light-hearted comedy then you’ll enjoy the show, but if you’re looking for something more unique you’re better off giving it a miss.

The songs make the production: it’s not hard to see that the music was composed before the rest of the storyline was written. The group songs were particularly strong: Miss Adelaide and the Hot Box Girls’s ‘A Bushel and a Peck’ and the gangsters’s ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ were infectiously high-spirited. The choreography was generally very effective: the Havana dance, which involved about twenty members of the cast, was extraordinarily lively.

Ellie Shaw, playing the nightclub performer Miss Adelaide, stole the show with her dazzling voice and outstanding comic timing. Alex Tsaptsinos, as Miss Adelaide’s fiancé Nathan Detroit, also charmed the audience, and the chemistry between the two of them was exciting. Tim Coleman, who played Nicely-Nicely Johnson, oozed charisma and put in a stella comic performance.

Jack Graham as the hoodlum Sky Masterson and Ros Dobson as the mission doll Sarah Brown were less convincing, and their romance not so captivating. Both their performances felt somewhat static, and there was no real spark between them. Though it was clear that Dobson is an excellent singer, her operatic voice was not really appropriate to the show.

The production as a whole had a homespun feel: there were several technical glitches and the stage hands found moving chairs surprisingly difficult. However, the cheerful cast dealt with these minor setbacks confidently and humourously: at one point they even made a comic sequence out of the failure of the voice over technology. The set was also disappointingly bare: they did not make the most of the potential for colour and glamour provided by the setting of the action in Broadway and Havana.

So, the production might not have been perfectly executed, but if you’re prepared to sit through some slightly clumsy scenes, parts of the show are well worth seeing.

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