GUYS AND DOLLS
LADS at the Tractor Shed, Latchindon
Mary Redman was there at the final performance:
Guys And Dolls is one of the 20th Century's greatest musicals, up alongside Oklahoma, Carousel and West Side Story in the sense that they were game changers which altered how audiences perceived and enjoyed, not only the excellent music, but also the very different stories of American life in varied settings. And if you don't believe me, Bob Fosse the top banana of Broadway choreographers thought so too.
In taking journalist Damon Runyon's hilarious tales of Broadway gamblers and sharpsters plus their dolls and molls, musician and lyricist Frank Loesser created one of the most difficult sings in musical theatre yet they were melodies that are unforgettable and catchy.
LADS had a full house for their last night performance which fortunately also included Peter Jones the inspirational original director and designer of the group. With a track record stretching back to the Fifties, Peter has been unwell, but was looking so much better and lively in his rockabilly outfit of checked shirt and braces.
I've referred to the difficulty of singing this music but whenever the chorus was involved this was heartfelt and strong under the direction of MD James Tovey and his spirited band. For show stopper Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat by Nicely Nicely Johnson (Gavin Rouse) any vocal deficiency was covered by the chorus. He was joined by Alan Elkins as Benny Southstreet, Josh Oxley as Rusty Charlie, David Hudson's Harry the Horse and Daniel Tunbridge as Angie the Ox as the rest of the gang. David Bateman made a good Nathan Detroit, highlighting his naughty boy character. Unfortunately, I have to say that Ben Braden wasn't an ideal Sky Masterson since his singing was often off-key and his acting a bit diffident and lacking power.
The women's cast was much more assured with Aimee Hart as a delightful Sarah Brown the Mission Gal and Jamie-Leigh Royan as a highly glamorous Miss Adelaide. Both of them could sing and really did justice to numbers such as If I Were A Bell and Adelaide's Lament.
Simply staged - cutting out some of the Cuban scenes - by director Gavin Rouse with choreography by Vicky Bird and costumes by Kath Lang's team, this was an entertaining evening of musical theatre.