Guys & Dolls

Date 3rd December 2016
Society University of Manchester Musical Theatre Society
Venue Council Chambers
Type of Production Musical
Director Emily Oulton
Musical Director Joe Hearson
Choreographer Kiera Battersby


Author: Kevin Proctor

An amalgamation of three of Damon Runyon’s Broadway fables; ‘The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown’, ‘Pick the Winner’ and ‘Blood Pressure’ gives us the iconic gangster/moll musical, Guys & Dolls.

Booming with big band numbers, Joe Hearson’s orchestra provides a sturdy backdrop to the production offering every tune with accurate presentation but the opportunity to allow the rip-roar energy of the big band era to take over was what was missing for me. I wanted to experience blaring brass and heavier percussion with swing time energy but got a slightly safe – albeit accurate – impact. However, the vocals of his cast were in another league entirely with defined/well balanced harmonies and first rate control, delivery and technique from his leads.  

Emily Oulton directs attesting that lavish budgets are a needless luxury. Playing with no set was a brave vision but one which didn’t leave an effect of something missing. Stripping back a show of this genre to this degree could be a ludicrous notion to veteran fans of the golden Broadway musical but the detail in the glorious performances was all that we needed to appreciate and enjoy this much-loved classic in this snug performance space. The pace was not hurried nor was it overly drawn out relishing longing glances between the central lovers and not being afraid to allow her players to pause for thought offering a natural and honest act. With a show such as this, it’s all too common for one of its elements to override another such as the humour being a front runner or one specific player stealing the production – not here, as this was a fine tuned, well poised and beautifully composed display.

With Eiméar Crealey as Sarah Brown, Jack Hawkins as Sky Masterson, Jess Adams as Miss Adelaide, James Penniston as Nathan Detroit and Josh Barnett as Nicely-Nicely no one could argue the level of impressive quality that’s most definitely exhibited. in fact, I’d go as far to say that this troupe are the finest collection of leads I’ve seen put together in one piece for quite some time – not even a slight glimmer of deficiency in any aspect of their executions.

Exciting and vibrant choreography by Kiera Battersby was most definitely a treat! As is the case with most productions in this game she was working with a variety of abilities but fortunately she had some extremely capable feature dancers. Naturally, as one may expect, ‘Havana’ and ‘The Crapshooters Ballet’ were most certainly her vivid exhibition pieces within the production.

It was unfortunate that the collection of costumes were slightly slapdash and had clearly seen better days (had someone lost the tape measure when it came to sorting out the guys trousers?). However, on the grand scheme of things and knowing this society don’t have a fruitful bank balance I’m not going to dwell on it though it would be unfair for me to ignore it.  

As a product of the post war era, Damon Runyon’s fun and fancy stories were flawlessly fashioned into an uplifting evening of entertainment with a top-notch cast, which, in the hands of this director, is a gamble sure to pay off!