Guys and Dolls

Date 17th June 2022
Society Maghull Musical Theatre Company
Venue Southport Little Theatre, Hoghton Street, Southport
Type of Production Musical
Director Betty Hall + Becky Barrie (Assistant Director)
Musical Director Charles Moss
Choreographer Suzanne Morris


Author: Jim Briscoe

Guys and Dolls, a musical staged by Maghull Musical Theatre Company at Southport Little Theatre, Hoghton Street, Southport on Friday, 17th June, 2022.

With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys and Dolls is based on Damon Runyon's tales of New York City.  The story tells of Sarah Brown, an upright, but uptight 'mission doll,' who sets out to reform the evildoers of New York's Time Square. Sky Masterson, a slick, high-rolling gambler who woos Sarah her on a bet... but ends up falling in love with her! Miss Adelaide, the chronically ill nightclub performer whose condition is brought on by the fact she's been engaged to the same man for 14 years… Nathan Detroit, her devoted fiancé, always desperate to find a spot for his floating crap game.

It was so great to see Maghull Musical Theatre Company back on stage doing what they do best!  Congrats to Betty Hall (Director), Becky Barrie, (Assistant Director), Charles Moss (Musical Director) and Suzanne Morris (Choreographer) for producing, what was, a great show, with a great cast, some wonderful music and some simple, yet effective choreography, that played to the strengths of all the cast and which enhanced the show so much!  Well done folks… be ever so proud of what you achieved!

Before I carry on with this review, can I share a decision that Maghull Musical Theatre Company made to appoint, from cast members, ‘understudies’ for all the principal roles? The reason was to combat the threat of losing someone to Covid and the show having to be postponed or cancelled… great idea and a great insurance policy!  It was also decided that those ‘understudies’ would be given their chance in the ‘spotlight’ at the Saturday Matinee. So, having been invited to attend the Friday evening performance and review the show, I was invited back to see most of the understudies perform at the Saturday Matinee and toward the end of this review, I have included a paragraph on their performances! 

For me, the ‘opening scene’ from ‘Guys and Dolls’, always sets the tone for the entire show… ‘Runyonland’, an instrumental played amazing well by the orchestra, provided the perfect accompaniment for the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the many characters seen walking the streets of New York City, which was staged really well. Next, ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’ sung with passion by Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Eric Fletcher), Benny Southstreet (Matt Casson) and Rusty Miller (Alex McKillop)! Add a Salvation Army Band and for this production, the addition of some amazing projected ‘Guys and Dolls’ signage and images… after all that… you just knew we were in for a real treat!  Congrats to everyone who assisted in setting the opening… be proud, great job!

It is that time in my review when I ‘stick my neck out’ and start selecting favourites, MY favourites, ask anyone else and they’d probably come up with something/someone completely different… but this is all me! 

My ‘Show Stealer’ had to be Eric Fletcher for his portrayal of ‘Nicely-Nicely Johnson’… the eccentric, unconventional gambler and one of Nathan’s closest associates!  Eric was the ‘perfect fit’ for this semi comedic role… great stage presence, great characterisation, totally believable, mannerisms and facial expressions aplenty… he just ‘shot’ you a look and you knew exactly what he was thinking!  Sang and acted one of the most ‘iconic songs’ from the show ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’ really well… great job Eric, be ever so proud… ’I bet Mum is’!   Our ‘four leads’ ‘Sky Masterson’ played by Leslie Longley the ‘biggest gambler of them all, who takes on a ‘bet’ and then falls in love with the object of that ‘bet’. ‘Sarah Brown’ was played by Rachel Standring, the kind-hearted, naive ‘Missionary Doll’ who Sky takes to Havana as part of the bet. ‘Nathan Detroit’ the ‘facilitator of the ‘crap games’ was played by Liam Rabbette and his fiancé ‘Miss Adelaide’ the loveable, gullible night club singer was played by Phoebe Hill.  All four created totally believable characters who provided the perfect foundation for this musical.  Each had a story to tell and tell them they did!  Great characterisation, looked totally comfortable throughout, great stage presence and they all worked ever so well together… be proud guys… great job!  Matt Casson took on the role of ‘Benny Southstreet’, one of Nathan’s closest associates, confident, great stage presence, great voice, played this part with effortless ease!  Les Gomersall played ‘Arvide Abernathy’, Member of the Save the Soul Mission and grandfather to Miss Sarah.  Les looked totally at home in this role which he made his own. Loved his rendition of ‘More I cannot Wish You’, be proud Les, great job!  Alex McKillop took on two roles… ‘Rusty Charlie’ and ‘Harry the Horse’ two Gamblers, both of which he played really well; plus he was one of the ‘trio’ who sang ‘The Fugue’.  ‘Big Jule’ was played really well by Chris Barrie.  ‘Lt Brannigan’ was played well by Ian Culshaw; ‘General Cartwright’, ‘Regional Director of the Save the Soul Mission’ was played by Gaynor Hale… great fit for this part… be proud Gaynor good job!                          

HOT BOX GIRLS… ‘Mimi’ was played by Alice McKillop, the other unnamed girls were Alicia Allen, Sarah Fletcher, Hayley King, Pam Laverty and Susanne Morris (Choreographer and fabulous dancer) … well done ladies, good job!   CRAP SHOOTERSColin Kilbride played ‘Brandy Bottle Bates’, great characterisation,in fact sometimes a little too convincing Colin…(ahahahah), great job sir!  Tom Brown played ‘Scranton Slim’; John Ball played ‘Last Card Louie’; James Fleetwood played the ‘Lemon Drop Kid’ and Dan McWaters played ‘Angie the Ox’… all created good individual characters and worked really well together, loved the ‘Sewer Scene’!  SAVE THE SOUL MISSION… Kay Davies played ‘Agatha’ a good friend of Miss Sarah; the other unnamed roles were played by… Alicia Allen, John Ball, Beckie Barry, Leanne Cooney, Yasmin Cranny, Carol Kennedy, Hayley King.  Well done folks… good job!

THE BAND… Charles Moss (Musical Director) had under his control an amazing orchestra who, from start to finish, provided an amazing sound and accompaniment for the singers … Corey Gerrard (Keyboard strings), Andrew Standeven (Piano), Helen Maw, Sarah Dutch, Adam Letman, John Padfield, Helen Goldsmith (Reeds), Cliff Ray (Trumpet) Emma Lenehan and Ken Taylor (Horn), Tim Lenehan (Trombone), Adam Dutch (Bass) and Mike McKay and Paul Dutch (Percussion)…. be proud guys…amazing job!

THE UNDERSTUDIES… one chance to ‘shine’ and let’s be clear… no one failed to impress!  Our ‘fab four’… we had a double change for ‘Sky Masterson and Sister Sarah’ with Matt Casson and Kay Davies ‘filling those shoes' superbly well. The ‘chemistry’ between these two was evident throughout… both created great individual characters whilst working together ever so well.  Great stage presence, great voices… their duet ‘I’ve never been in love before’ was a highlight for me… be ever so proud guys!  We had just a single change with ‘Nathan Detroit’ and ‘Miss Adelaide’ with Sarah Fletcher playing opposite Liam Rabbette in the role of Miss Adelaide. Sarah did a great job, good stage presence, great mannerisms, which this role requires, worked well with Nathan… well done Sarah!  Tom Brown stood in for Matt Casson as ‘Benny Southstreet’ and did a good job with the role.  Lesley Longley stepping in to fill Tom’s role of ‘Scranton Slim’.  Rachel Standring understudied the role of ’Agatha’, played originally by Kay Davies, Rachel making a good job of the role.  Finally, Eric Fletcher and Colin Kilbride understudied the ‘others’ original role (‘Nicely-Nicely Johnson’ and ‘Brandy Bottle Bates’) respectively! Colin, got his chance to play ‘Nicely-Nicely’ on the Thursday evening performance... a performance that I did not see!   
Stage/Technical Management… A minimal set was used throughout under the watchful eye of Radley Haynes (Stage Manager) who, not only did a great job managing the ‘pushers/pullers’ back stage; but he also did a really good job portraying ‘Joey Biltmore’ the owner of ‘The Biltmore Garage, where Nathan wanted to run his ‘Crap Game’.  Not many lines, but made them all count, well done sir!  Well done also to the ‘pushers and pullers’ Pete and June Beswick and Colin Haynes.  ‘Lighting’ was great, in the capable hands of Andrea Shacksmyth-Claire, as was the ‘Sound’ under the control of Matt Hughes. ‘Projection’ - mentioned previously was amazing!  It was obvious that a great deal of time and effort had been spent designing and sorting this which was used throughout and which enhanced the production so much… congrats to Paul Shacksmyth for his knowledge and undoubted skill in this field. Costumes were excellent… provided by ‘The Costume Store’…  Props were apt and used very well… under the control of Becky and Chris Barrie.

The ‘finale and the bows’ were greeted with great applause, hoots and hallows from an extremely appreciative audience, as they should have been, because what we’d just witnessed was a great production!  But, if I can be ever so ‘picky’ and I really hope I don’t offend anyone because that was never my intention, but after such a fabulous opening and a great show, I was left wanting just a little bit more from the finale… what we saw was fine, but after what we’d already witnessed, I wanted a little more than ‘fine’… sorry if I’ve overstepped the mark, but I wouldn’t have mentioned it had I not known that you were capable of more!

Finally, can I take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for inviting my wife and I, for allowing me to visit and speak to you in rehearsal and for allowing me to see and speak with the cast and crew after the show.  Thanks also for your welcome, your hospitality throughout, it really was appreciated and I cannot wait to see you all again for Jekyll and Hyde in November.  

Stay safe and keep well…

Jim Briscoe
District 6 Rep