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Oxford Operatic Society - Guys and Dolls

21st to 26th November 2005.

From Ami Shah.

Luck was a lady indeed on the opening night of Oxford Operatic Society's latest production, and the society's unique blend of singing talent and passion for the craft was on full display. The society is Oxford's longest running amateur company, and thus has a good deal of experience in the technicalities of putting on a show - including fun costumes and an impressive set. Its members threw themselves with gusto into this very American musical, replete with gamblers and gangsters, dance-hall girls and missionaries.

Opening night wasn't without its hitches and slight 'wardrobe malfunctions'. These troubles only highlighted the professionalism of the group as they continued along without so much as a hiccup. James Studds as Nicely-Nicely Johnson commanded a great stage presence, and Dave Crew as Nathan Detroit had fabulous timing. Marilyn Moore as his fiancée, Miss Adelaide, all but stole the show with her constant struggle to tame her man. The missionary Sarah Brown was played by Sarah Leatherbarrow, who has a stunning voice, and her love interest/gambler Sky Masterson (Tim Younger) came fully to life in Act II's famous song, Luck Be a Lady.

A special mention really must be made for the men of the group. While they may not have had life-long dance training, they fully immersed themselves in the dance numbers, and not only did they seem to be enjoying themselves, but created wonderful effects.

And in the end, this is what art is about - entertainment and enjoyment for all, performers and audience alike. It is fabulous to see local talent shine in such a big way, playing to such a large audience, in a professional setting. Guys and Dolls runs through to this Saturday, 26 November 2005, and includes a matinee on Saturday. See it if you can - it's completely worth the gamble.


From Theatreworld Internet Magazine.

Guys and Dolls is considered by many to be one of the best musical comedies of all time. As well as Frank Loesser's wonderful music and lyrics, it has love, money, fate, religion and a happy ending! So it was with anticipation of an enjoyable evening that I took my seat in the Oxford Playhouse on a cold, foggy night. As soon as the orchestra, under the competent baton of Michael Evans, struck up the overture, the enjoyment began. It is so good to have a live orchestra.

The story goes as follows: all the hot gamblers are in town, and they are all depending on Nathan Detroit to run The oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York. So far he has not let them down, but he needs to find $1000 to pay the owner of the place where he plans to hold tonight's game. He decides to bet Sky Masterson $1000 that he cannot get Sarah Brown, (mission doll) to go with him to Havana. Also we have Miss Adelaide, (feisty doll) who has waited fourteen years for Nathan to marry her, plus Police Lieutenant Brannigan, assorted gangsters and a mission band.

Tonight's production did not disappoint me. The orchestra was excellent. The scenery, props and costumes were ever-changing and a delight to the eye. The dance routines, choreographed by Maggie Moriarty, sparkled. The singing was excellent.

The performers combined established members of Oxford Operatic Society with at least a dozen new young members. I suspect that one of the reasons for the Society's continuing excellence is their ability to attract new members both for the cast and for the backstage team - well done!

Each of the main parts was well-cast. From "The Dolls" I particularly liked Sarah Leatherbarrow as Sarah Brown. I have heard her sing in several productions and she never disappoints with her pure clear, singing. Miss Adelaide, played by Marilyn Moore was just right for the part, and kept us entertained with her feisty personality and glamorous clothes. From "The Guys" Dave Crewe was superb as Nathan Detroit. His singing, dancing and acting were well up to scratch. Tim Younger made a handsome Sky Masterson, but his singing was not quite as secure as Sarah's. James Stubbs was very impressive as Nicely-Nicely: he had a very good singing voice and was a confident presence on the stage. The Mission Band provided some welcome and finely-judged comic moments.

The ensembles were most enjoyable, with slick and confident singing and dancing. The crap shooters contrasted well with the Hot Box nightclub dancers. The set for the Havana cafe was very attractive and really transported me away from cold, foggy Oxford. All the songs in the show are very enjoyable but I particularly liked I'll know (Sarah and Sky) The Oldest established (Crap-Shooters), Adelaide's Lament (Miss Adelaide) and Sit down, you're rocking the boat (Nicely Nicely and Company).

I can thoroughly recommend this production of Guys and Dolls and wish Oxford Operatic Society all the best as they begin their 60th year in 2006.