The Mill at Sonning - Guys and Dolls
23rd November 2018 to 23rd February 2019
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Gangsters, gamblers and grime – the musical of New York
Guys and Dolls, at The Mill at Sonning, until January 26
This show was a big success on Broadway in 1950 and an even bigger one with the 1955 film, helped considerably by a cast that included Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons. Based on short stories by Damon Runyon, it is one of the few musicals where even the most colourful costumes and scenery are outshone by the colourful characters.
Runyon's low life gamblers in the grimy back streets of New York in the 1920s received an unexpected and unlikely shot of glamour with this musical.
The plot lines concern Nathan Detroit, played as a likeable hustler and rogue by Stephane Anelli and his long-suffering fiancée of 14 years, Adelaide, with a broad New York accent which she maintained throughout by Natalie Hope. Natalie was particularly impressive with her Lament 'A poysun can develop a cold'.
Richard Carson did well as Sky Masterson, the smooth, super gambler who is transformed by his love of Sister Sarah, the Salvation Army girl, given a lively and many-faceted reading by Victoria Serra. Can Masterson accept a bet from Detroit that he can't persuade Sarah to go on a date in Havana with him? You bet he can – pardon the expression – and he does… and he wins.
And then there are the minor characters – Daniel Fletcher as a suitably lumbering, tongue-tied Big Jule, Oliver Jacobson, amusing as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Jonathan Tweedie as Harry the Horse. Jacobson had his big moment near the end with his gospel flavoured big number Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat. And the way he put the song over and the movement in unison of all the faces of the gamblers was a highpoint in the choreography.
One of the outstanding features of this holiday season spectacular was the crisp, clear-cut dance routines. Michelle Andrews, Felipe Bejarano, Katie Bradley, Rebecca Bernice Amissah, Alex Christian, Ben Irish and Jeremie Rose had small parts, but almost all of them had dancing roles. Credit there goes to Joseph Pitcher who functioned as director and choreographer, a mammoth task, extremely well-executed.
Diego Pitarch's seedy New York street set was spot on. And last, but by no means least, a slap on the back for Charlie Ingles, who was pianist and conductor of the five-piece band.
So there you have it, a bright and colourful musical, all revolving round 'The biggest floating crap game in New York'.
Review from The Times.
This effervescent small-scale staging of a classic is razzle-dazzling and pungently seedy
With its drop-dead dames and street-talking wise guys, this is a tough show to resist. And for this effervescent revival, the director and choreographer Joseph Pitcher recreates a teeming, scheming slice of old Broadway right under our noses, in an intimate production that’s razzle-dazzling and pungently seedy.
The denizens of Damon Runyon’s vivid New York tales, on which Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’s book is based, strut and preen even when they’re down to their last couple of cents. Their lives are precarious, which gives the musical’s illicit crap shoots, romances and happy ending a vitality that Pitcher ramps up. Above all, Frank Loesser’s score, rendered here with blast and brio by a five-piece band, is a golden glory.
Diego Pitarch’s sidewalk set puts the emphasis on urban grime as much as glamour and Stephane Anelli’s Nathan Detroit, a fly-by-night gambling game fixer, is a wiry, weaselly proposition, with his darting eyes and spivvy little moustache. Yet he still has enough warmth and wit to make us believe in the attraction he holds for Natalie Hope’s Adelaide, the nightclub chanteuse who has been his frustrated fiancée for 14 years. Meanwhile, Richard Carson’s smoothie high-roller Sky Masterson meets his unlikely match in devout Sarah Brown (Victoria Serra), a tub-thumping Christian soldier of the Save a Soul Mission.
Serra and Hope are outstanding, making these dolls living, breathing women with brains and hearts. Hope’s Adelaide revels in her sexiness while longing for a respectable domesticity that would probably bore her senseless — but she’s mistress of a sharp-turned phrase and her despair at Nathan’s repeated betrayals is poignant. Serra has a gorgeous, crystalline voice and on her trip to Havana with Sky she comes hilariously emotionally unbuttoned, tumbling dizzyingly from barroom tables before delivering a woozy, boozy If I Were a Bell that is sheer, abandoned, lovestruck joy.
That euphoria is matched by some electrifying choreography, whether it’s lust-fuelled Cuban couples entwined in a tango, eager crap-shooters flinging themselves athletically through the air amid the dice-rattling tension of Luck Be a Lady, or the barnstorming, foot-stomping, arms-in-the-air exuberance of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat. Adelaide’s Hot Box club routines, too, are deft and sassy, a clever mix of the comic and the burlesque.
Some of the singing needs fine-tuning and the intricacy of Loesser’s lyrics is occasionally lost, but this is a small-scale staging of a classic that wins big.
There are reviews from The Stage ("rambunctious boutique production of a Broadway classic bursting with energy and invention" - 4 stars), Broadway World ("there is no weak link in this cast... no deficit of talent, energy, spirit - or luck" - 4 stars).