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You can't go far wrong with Guys & Dolls, the music will always carry it through, and this was no exception.

I liked the slightly quirky rather comic book scenery, it made a change – but it’s a shame the rostra wasn't able to be used a little more, as the action was rather one dimensional at times.  The scene changes were accomplished quite quickly, although sometimes a little noisily!!  I found the use of the blacks slightly disconcerting for a colourful production like Guys & Dolls, as usually a cloth is used, but having said that, it showed up the costumes well.

I thought the band sounded good, Roy Mather's had got together some good musicians who were loud where needed, but also accompanied well.  It was amusing to see the skyline backcloth with the outline of Roy's arms – it looked as the building was about to take flight – perhaps for the future this could be looked at, and if the backdrop is not completely solid, the MD could be placed to the side so that this wouldn't occur, as it detracted from the on-stage action at times.

I liked the colourfulness of the costumes – particularly Nicely's suit – I thought it suited the part and the man very well – the guys suits were also very colourful, but in some cases needed a bit of refinement in the wearing of them – as some looked a little like duster coats, in what would have been a very tailored era.  The Hot Box costumes were good, and worked well.  The 'Mink' dresses stripped well and no-one had to fiddle with anything to get them off quickly – nicely done.

I felt that the Salvation Army costumes could have been a bit darker, as a contrast to the other more colourful characters – which would have been more effective from a purely aesthetic point of view.  The bonnets unfortunately obscured everyone's faces.  One thing I want to see well - and I think audiences do too – is people's faces, it makes such a difference to the feel of the piece.  

I love Fugue for Tinhorns, and although this was a very traditional working of it, it looked good, and the guys handled it well – which is what it is all about as it is the first musical number in the show, so needs to be slick.  It could have done with a slightly better sound balance between the voices – as Nicely was much louder than the others, and sometimes the lovely harmonies were a little lost – which I felt was a sound problem rather than anything else.

Joshua Bird was a super Nicely – difficult to realise he is so young! – but very accomplished, I liked his characterisation very much.  The continual eating which is a requirement of the part must have been difficult, but it never obscured his speech – and I loved the table in the Hot Box scene when he got out all the elements of his meal from his pockets, including a jar of mustard – very funny.

Freddie Clarke as Benny Southstreet also created a nice character, who interacted well with Nicely.

One character who came over really well was Matt Bowles as Harry the Horse – he had that sort of gangster mentality that came over as natural – and which created a good relationship between him and Big Jule played by Andy Kennett, who wore his yellow suit extremely well and I liked what he did with the part.

There were some young men dancers who were excellent – I understand Josh did the choreography for their numbers, and I was very impressed.  It suited the feel of the music, and the strengths of the guys.  I didn't like the use of two ladies in the Luck Be a Lady number – I thought it detracted from the overall feel as they were patently not men!  And the boys did well enough to be able to carry it off without additional people.  There could have been more noise in the dance number, it was a little too quiet, it would have lifted it to an all action engrossing number.

Havana was very vibrant, with plenty of action in the choreography, which I understand was the work of Andrea Campusano.  It was different and worked well.

Hannah Vessey as Sarah Brown sung the part extremely well, and I liked her interpretation of If I Were a Bell.  However, I didn't get any spark between her and Craig Allen as Sky Masterson, which was a great shame as it left their scenes a little flat.  Craig always gives the feeling he has researched his part well, and he showed accomplishment in his musical numbers, an entirely different sort of part from Leo Bloom, calmer and more measured.

Musically I thought Emma Brown as Miss Adelaide was very strong, and with a good accent, however her dialogue did not always echo the musical effect.  I needed her to be much more ditzy to contrast with Sarah.  Emma certainly looked the part, and her relationship with Nathan was believable.

Andy Faber made a good Nathan Detroit, perhaps not as flamboyant as other Nathan's I've seen, but he kept his characterisation well, and his reaction to Adelaide and their relationship came over as true.

Stephen J Davies again brought his very mobile face to play in the part of Rusty Charlie.

I liked The Oldest Established, it was good musically, and the crapshooters moved well within the number.

So, nothing not to like in the production, but I would have appreciated a little more energy in the execution.  I liked the finale – plenty of energy there, so all in all a nice show but not one of BTC’s best.

Berkhamsted Theatre Company

GUYS AND DOLLS” 8th November 2012

Pendley Theatre, Tring Director: Pauline Aldridge

Choreographers: Joshua Bird, Andrea Campusano & Gisele Yoh-Fowles


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