Guys and Dolls
11th February 2015
Sawston Youth Drama
Marven Centre, Sawston, Cambridge
Type of Production
Mark Long & Gary Bonner
Author: Sue Hartwell
I thoroughly enjoy my visits to SYD and look forward to their shows with some degree of excitement, as they always manage to impress me with their sheer professionalism, talent and vitality! This block-buster of a 1950's musical, with so many well-known songs, was no exception.
From the tuneful opening bars of the overture to the last chord of the rousing finale, superbly played by the accomplished musicians in the band, under the expert control of Musical Director Janet MacLeod, this was an evening of pure delight. The musicality and quality of both solo and chorus numbers was exceptional from this young cast, who gave their all in providing an extremely high standard first night performance, evidence of many hours of rehearsal and dedication.
Although Guys & Dolls is a very colourful and lively show, the first act is longer than most and can be tedious, Not so for this production, as the stage crew, under the management of Jo Doran, worked very hard to ensure an almost seamless transition between the many scene changes and the whole cast were slick with their entrances and exits and timing. The technical team, despite some electrical problems before the show, were spot-on with both lighting and sound cues. The dresses, make-up and hairstyles for the dolls, provided by the group's wardrobe and make-up teams, were evocative of the '50s, as were the suits and hats for the guys, nicely contrasted by the uniforms of the Mission Band, who made an impressive first entrance from the auditorium's upper floor, complete with bass drum and banners. Karen Revill, as Choreographer, had devised some imaginative moves and routines which just occasionally, through the sheer number of cast on stage in some of the chorus numbers, were a little difficult for the cast to always execute crisply. That said, the Hot Box Girls and the Havana Bar dance routines were a delightful highlight of the evening and a credit to dance captains Kayleigh Meldrum and James Robinson, who performed the speciality dance!
As Director, Gary Bonner had chosen his principals well and they each gave a performance that was confident and polished beyond their young years - amazing and a privilege to watch. The comedy duo of Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet were well-characterised by Jonah Perry and Chris Jeferry, their every word clearly heard, with effective American accents, which were evident too in their various musical numbers. Sam Roberts as Nathan Detroit, combined hs very natural acting and vocal skills in the fun role as the long-suffering fiance of some 14 years to Miss Adelaide, "star" of the Hot Box Night Club, brilliantly played here by young Jess Hicks, her "laments" and opening number in Act II particularly enjoyable. Another up and coming young actress, Alice Gilderdale, who as Maria in SYD Seniors 2014 show West Side Story had impressed me, proved again her amazing talent to provide a very convincing role as Mission Captain Sarah Brown. With Alex Nightingale as Sky Masterson, who had a wonderfully expressive singing voice too, their scenes together were both enthralling and riveting and their closing duet to Act I, "I've Never Been In Love Before", very emotive.
Of the supporting cast, Megan Carlton, as Arvida Abernathy and Shiona Luke as General Cartwright of the Save Thy Souls Mission, gave good and rounded performances, as did Jake Ribton as Harry The Horse, James Wright as Lt. Brannigan and Sam Ross as Rusty Charlie. I'd love to be able to give a personal credit to every individual young performers on stage, but space won't allow it, so suffice to say that, without exception, they each helped to create a truly memorable performance.
Sadly, for both Gary Bonner as Director and Janet MacLeod as Musical Director, this will be their last production for SYD Seniors after some amazing 19 years working with and encouraging young performers who have come up through the ranks. It was therefore fitting that a tribute was paid to them both, for their dedication and support, at the conclusion of the evening's performance by Mark Long, the group's Producer and Chairman.