Guys and Dolls

Date 3rd May 2017
Society The DODS
Venue Lister Hall, Dursley
Type of Production Musical
Director Ken Hitchings
Musical Director Roger Winter
Choreographer Val Lockley

Report

Author: Dee Way

It is always a pleasure to come to see your productions as they nearly always (so far) have some very creative scenic ideas. This time one was the depiction of New York office blocks using black bars and light ‘walls’, which looked very effective under the lights. Another was the newsstand down stage left, as the place where the gamblers gathered. The lit up adverts hung across the stage were excellent in creating the era of the show, while the old-style phone booth down stage right looked totally authentic. Fitting the safety announcement into the show was lovely!

Evidence of careful planning by the director was evident throughout the show, as the scene changes, entrances and exits were fast and efficient. Only once was a table left on stage rather too long. The patterns of the production were also well thought through, with the action moving to various parts of the stage. This helped the performance hold the audience’s attention. The use of the downstage hatch to access the ‘sewers’ was wonderful!

The casting was excellent, with Big Jule being physically threatening by his size and Adelaide being petite and loud. Sky was tall and dominating, while Nathan Detroit looked somewhat overwhelmed at times and Sarah Brown was reticent and thoughtful. The General was a lovely cameo of energy and brashness. It was obvious that all the cast were clear about who they were playing and the characterisation throughout was very good. 

The scene changes both on and above the stage were very well done. Tables and chairs appeared magically and a gauze screen and curtains dropped in while adverts disappeared. I liked the hint of a tropical beach with the projected palm tree and string of coloured lights. This was an excellent example of how slick scene changes can massively enhance a production!

The lighting effects were excellent, with the colour changing on the ‘office blocks’, the good use of spot-lights and the lovely warm atmosphere created for Havana.  I also liked the rather colder lighting used for the Salvation Army interiors and the feeling of night-time when the adverts lit in series. Indeed, the impression was created of a city that never sleeps.

The costumes and hairstyles were brilliant in the opening, with Marcel waves, small hats and good clothes indicating the status and occupations of many of the cast. I liked the coloured ribbon around the men’s hats, and the coloured shirts and gaudy ties. The Salvation Army costumes were just as good, while the vibrant colours of the Havana scene made a wonderful contrast.

The music was very good, although at one point it was a little loud and overwhelmed the dialogue. The variation of harmony and tone was well used to create the contrasting atmospheres of the ‘hot box’, Havana and the brass of the Salvation Army band. The tempi and energy were nicely varied to add to the interest of the production and the support given to the singers was excellent.

The sound generally was very good, with singers being heard clearly most of the time. The police siren came across really well and the control of the mics was good.  There was a good balance between the singers and the orchestra. 

The choreography was most creative, energetic and enthralling. The energy of the cast is greatly to be admired, in completing some quite intricate patterns of dance.  This was particularly true for the three leading gamblers, with their leaps and kicks, all beautifully in time and together. The crap-shooters dance in the sewers was particularly memorable for its moves and interactions.

However, it was the performers that made this production so good. The energy on stage was high level throughout. Even when posing for photographs or forming a background, everyone knew what to do and did it well. The New York accents were very well created and maintained, even when singing, and yet the clarity of the songs and dialogue was not compromised at all. There were so many minor characters that contributed well to the show, such as the blind man who could see and the old soak. The opening street scene was a wonderful mix of people and actions that really set the scene very well for the rest of the performance.

This production had it all: the set was excellent, the technical support was brilliant and the cast acted, sang and danced with gusto. It was an excellent evening of entertainment.