By Hetty Mentzel
The spectacular production of Guys and Dolls presented by DULOG takes the stage of the Gala Theatre this week: “seek and ye shall find” a production of the highest quality and entertainment.
Set in the pacey streets of New York, a dazzling ensemble of showgirls and gamblers explore what it means when love comes in unexpected ways, with unexpected people. The story, written by Damon Runyon with music by Frank Loesser, follows Nathan Detroit who has desperately few options left for the location of his big craps betting game.
Needing $1,000 to pay a garage owner to host the game, Nathan bets suave Sky Masterson that Sky cannot get virtuous missionary, Sarah Brown, out on a date. Despite some resistance, Sky negotiates a date with her in exchange for bringing “a dozen genuine sinners” to her mission’s prayer meeting. Meanwhile, Nathan’s longtime fiancée, Miss Adelaide is at the end of her tether waiting for a wedding after 14 years of engagement.
This production is an enchanting, uplifting, and sensational display of the best of music, dance, and acting, performed to near-professional standards at the Gala Theatre. Directed by Guy Rapacioli and produced by Jennifer Leigh, the standard of the show is even more remarkable as it involves over 70 students across cast, band, technical and production teams, put together through an intensive 5-week rehearsal process.
Special mentions must also go to the show’s Musical Directors, Tom Klafkowski and Ollie Fabb, for bringing to life classic tunes such as “Luck Be a Lady”, “If I Were a Bell” and “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” with such energetic vibrancy. The band handles the action-packed score with ease, from pumping out missionary marches to cheeky cabaret dance numbers for Adelaide’s Hot Box girls, and even the spicy salsa of Havana’s bars. Matched with choreography from creative genius Anna Kendall that can only be described as mesmerising the whole effect is a feast for the senses.
The opening sequence whets the appetite for a celebration of diverse ensemble characters, yet each startlingly well developed individually. Lucie Fletcher performs Sarah Brown as an earnest and pleading missionary with a crystal clear voice that hit heights effortlessly. While her first duet, “I’ll Know”, with Sky Masterson, played by Tom Cain, is fairly stationary and direct to the audience, I felt that by the time she warms into “If I Were a Bell” (aided by a few Bacardi Dulce de Leche milkshakes) she unlocks the true extent of her masterful stage presence.
Tom Cain’s Sky Masterson oozes suave authority, letting the wheedling Nathan Detroit, Olly Stanton, play up to him with a cool, composed demeanour. The delivery from the whole cast of whip-smart lines leaves the audience both enthralled and laughing along throughout. At times an over-enthusiastic tendency of some actors left the scenes feeling a touch saturated and saccharine, in cartoon-like characterisations, yet the overall dynamism of the cast creates an undeniable buzz of musical theatre delight.
Miss Adelaide, a sniffling sweetheart played by Flo Lunnon, hits this balance spot on. The fullness of character flits between caring, frustrated, sugary sweet, despairing, and always smitten; you can’t help but fall in love with her.
Supporting these key roles are an ensemble of impressive talent who bring to life bands of well-meaning missionaries, giggling gaggles of dancing girls, and a motley assortment of gamblers. The richness of the world they inhabit is visually set by a vast range of professional scenery; smoky purple streets of twilight New York fill the stage with cocktail bars, sewers, barbers, and skyscrapers illuminated with advertisements. Barring a few minor microphone hiccups, the production is remarkably slick, my applause goes to Technical Director James Goodall and Stage Manager Daisy Robinson for such a mammoth task.
The starry nighttime backdrop of Havana is enchanting as Sky’s mellow voice melts away the detached gangster exterior to reveal a genuine, twinkling, wide-eyed realisation of his love for Sarah that had the audience letting out a collective sigh in “My Time of Day”. The entire Havana dance number is a jewel of the entire performance; dynamic, pacy choreography is full of high kicks, splits, and hip-shaking salsa, utterly astonishing and totally joyful.
If you are at all uncertain about whether to see this production, I can ensure that you’ll be leaving the theatre with a smile on your face, salsa in your step, and a song on your lips, in a way that only musical theatre can magically create.