Guys and Dolls

Date 17th May 2018
Society Alton Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Assembly Rooms, Alton
Type of Production Musical
Director Jane Gray
Musical Director Chris Gardner


Author: Pauline Surrey

A gambling game with no venue, a pressing need to finance a venue, and therefore a $1000 bet that the worldly-wise Sky Masterson cannot get the virtuous Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah Brown out on a date.  Just one of Nathan Detroit’s problems.  The other is his long-suffering fiancée of 14 years, the glamourous yet very nice Adelaide, who is piling on the pressure for him to finally put that ring on her finger and settle down.  A tricky time lies ahead for Nathan!

The staging was on loan from Alton College Drama Department, and was very effective. The stage was extended into the hall, giving much more room for ensemble numbers, and an added immediacy and contact to the audience, which I enjoyed. It also allowed lots of Salvation Army marches!

There was such natty suiting for the gents, in a stunning array of lovely bright colours. The ladies were all in 1950s outfits, complete with 1950s makeup – except, that is, for our demure Salvation Army Sarah, and her colleagues. Super Cuban costumes, and some brilliant golden spangly ones for one of the night club numbers.

Placing the band on the stage, at the back, was a very satisfying innovation, really adding to all those night club and Cuban scenes. Excellent sound quality throughout, and excellent balance between band and singers. Great musical direction from Chris Gardner. Anna Lang did a super job with the choreography of these lively and life enhancing numbers! The whole elongated stage was put to great use.

Well, what a jolly and marvellously entertaining evening we were treated to! So much energy on stage. Yet not only energy and fun, we also had some thoughtful and sad or quiet moments too, where the cast was able to show what good actors they are. Hannah Garcia gave us a particularly good Adelaide, bright and bubbly, yet also well aware that her life was passing by – would Nathan ever come up with a wedding date, and a little home for her to make their own? Nathan himself, that hoodlum so under pressure on two counts, yet so able to bounce back, was very well played by Tim Guilding.

Humour abounds in this show, and this cast were able to show this off to its best advantage – great timing, great delivery, and with great accents too.

The unlikely romance – the result of Nathan’s bet with Sky – between the worldly wise, sophisticated Sky Masterson (Richard Seeckts) and the sweet, innocent Sarah Brown (Christine Bothwell), totally committed to saving souls, was beautifully played, with some well-remembered songs sung with both a zest for life (If I were a bell, I’d be ringing), and the sweetness of discovery, (I’ve never felt this way before).  Sarah’s kindly Grandad Arvide Abernathy was played to perfection by James Willis, and he was in fine voice for his solo, which I think was ‘More I cannot wish you’.

The song I best remember from seeing the film as a (very small!) child, was ‘Sit down, you’re rocking the boat’. Mark Aston as Nicely Nicely Johnson did a fine job leading the ensemble on this number, with all the energy and bezazz and humour it demanded.

Every cast member was a character, and as I look back through the programme now I can clearly remember each one’s quirks and tone, if you like.  So the bossy General Matilda Cartwright (Kate Youll); our ever present NYPD Lt Brannigan (Stuart Nash), always popping up, never giving up, but knowing he’s on a hiding to nothing; Harry the Horse (Tom Baker); and the dopey but loveable Big Jule (Tom Ellenden) were all clearly defined memorable characters.  Okay, it’s a great piece of writing, but this cast, under the able direction of Jane Gray, made this one of the jolliest, funniest and most splendid evening’s entertainment I’ve had in a while!