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“Guys & Dolls”

I always enjoy Guys & Dolls, as there is some lovely music within the somewhat dubious tale of a gambler and a Mission doll.

Overall, I felt the cast lacked a little energy – although some numbers, particularly the Hot Box Girls with Miss Adelaide, were full of enthusiasm and gaiety (an old fashioned word which I think relates to the era of the piece).

The set worked very well – the use of what was essentially a series of book flats enabled fast scene changes, and the use of the extended stage on stage right for performers to use whilst the scene changes went on behind them was an excellent way to keep blackouts out of the equation and the action moving seamlessly.  Well done Sarah for having the vision to see how well this would work, and is a way of working I applaud.  

The lighting design worked well, I particularly liked the Havana scene, the effect of using the gauze over the glitter curtain with palm trees superimposed gave a super shimmery effect, which I loved.  The floor design for the sewer scene was also a good touch.

The costumes were a little hit and miss, in that some were really good, whilst others were needing a little attention.  Hairstyles were excellent – and good to see the men as well as the ladies buying into the look of the era.  

It was nice to see a different face taking the lead role of Sarah Brown – Juliet Llewelyn-West got plenty of expression into her numbers, although her acting was a little tentative at times, but that was down to inexperience with this being her first role. I think she did well overall, and was a good foil to the more worldly Sky, played with panache by Marc Rolfe, who brought a more professional approach to the part, and acted it well.  Some of his numbers needed a little more light and shade to give it more expression, but otherwise a good interpretation.

I liked Mick Hale as Nathan Detroit, a nicely studied portrayal, very well sung - giving us the wheeler dealer and also the indecision of his love for Adelaide, and not wanting to lose his independence.  Mick maintained the debonair but slightly dodgy feel of the character throughout, which I really liked. A believable relationship between him and Katy Elliott as Adelaide, made this a good comedy duo to contrast with the more serious nature of the other relationships within the show.

Katy gave Adelaide the ditzy blonde characterisation, which I enjoyed, and with Sarah Albert (who gave one of the best Miss Adelaide’s I have ever seen) as her director, there were good nuances and expressions, with lots of contrasts and dimensions to the character.  The Lament had some lovely expressive passages.

The band and MD coped well with being off stage, and in the main I liked the sound created, it was a perhaps a little thin, but it suited the sound of the era.  The cast achieved some good harmonies, and I really enjoyed the musicality of Luck be a Lady and Rocking the Boat.

Fugue for Tin Horns is a difficult piece, but the three men did it justice, I love the variety of musical changes – very well done.

Tim Hayden was a very full on Big Jule, this is a part that often disappears into the background, but no chance of that with Tim in there, giving it a piercing portrayal, which I really liked.  An excellent contrast to the gravelly voice of Harry the Horse, played by Iain Houston and the rather squeaky fun portrayal of Nicely-Nicely from Dave Sims.  The guys all gave their characters different dimensions so there was interest there.  

A nice interaction between Richard Garrett as Arvide and Sarah, he was really grandfatherly.  I liked the Salvation Army costumes, and with the black flashes they looked smart.  

Dee Lovelock gave General Cartwright a domineering edge, but also showed a softer, slightly racy side – a nice cameo part when done well, as Dee did.

Richard Lovelock seemed to me to be keeping a lid on Lieutenant Brannigan, which for me was a little too refined, I would have liked more forcefulness.

Choreography was good, and suited the abilities of the cast.  The Hot Box numbers were accomplished, with some nice grouping and movement suitable to the characters and the girls playing them.  

Luck Be a Lady was kept to mainly hand and arm movements, and some basic patterns, which were very effective and worked well – the men had been very well drilled, and it showed.  Far better to keep it simple and well done rather than try to be too ambitious.

Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat was another case of keeping it simple, I just would have liked a little more movement as it is a very iconic number, and I felt it lacked a little pizzazz – although the jazzy feel to the close of the number was good and really upped the atmosphere.

Havana was a little disappointing – there is so much scope within the number to get some wild movement to capture the carnival impression – I thought the dancers behind the gauze looked good, but when they came out onto the main body of the stage they looked more tentative, the whole thing needed more grouping and energy for my money.

Good to see some new faces amongst the more familiar ones, and on the whole a good production with some nice nuances and directorial touches.  An accomplished and enjoyable evening’s entertainment, and nice dimensions within the performances.


GUYS & DOLLS” review date: 28th June 2014


Director/Choreographer:  Sarah  Albert

MD:  Beth Thomas


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