Review: Guys and Dolls at Theatre Royal Bath
Big set piece song and dance numbers, snappy lines, fabulous costumes and famous songs: Guys and Dolls has it all. Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society’s (BODS) production delivered Frank Loesser’s musical story of saints and sinners with panache and energy – with many memorable highlights. George Miles as Nicely-Nicely Johnson wouldn’t be out of place on Broadway as he sang Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, with superb movement in an ensemble sequence brilliantly directed by choreographer Annette Wilsher.
Set in Times Square and the surrounding back streets of 1930s New York, the story centres on two sets of lovers who on the face of it are ill-suited. High-roller Sky Masterson, who falls in love with saintly mission worker Sarah Brown, and charmingly dodgy Nathan Detroit, is the love interest of long-suffering sex pot Miss Adelaide at the Hot Box Club. Rather than romance Nathan’s main aim is to set up an illegal crap game featuring betting on throwing dice. Suffice it to say gambling and saving souls at the mission are at the heart of a complex plot which bring the ill-matched couples together.
Sinners Sky Masterton (Finn Tickel) and Nathan Detroit (Grant McCotter) along with desperate to be married (and finally spend time in the kitchen having tried out all the other rooms) Miss Adelaide (Jane Knowles) were all superb – as was sassy Sally Ally saint Sarah Brown (Charlotte Hunter). With so many solo performances including Sarah and Sky singing I’ll Know, Nathan and Adelaide with Sue Me and Sky and Sarah’s song to end Act One I’ve Never Been in Love Before – these were of a standard that would grace any West End theatre.
Director Steve Blackmore created a big West End style production that included stunning sets and period costumes – and with James Finbow’s musical direction made this a stunning night of musical theatre of the highest quality. The show’s famous songs such as Guys and Dolls, Fugue for Tinhorns, Havana, Luck Be a Lady and Take Back Your Mink didn’t disappoint in a show that is packed with fabulous numbers.
Pip Knowles as Benny Southstreet, Paul Hobbs as Harry the Horse, and larger than life Big Jule played by Dave Key-Pugh gave excellent performances in the story of gamblers who end up saving Sarah Brown’s Christian Mission – via a bet of course. Charlotte Hunter had the tricky role of Sarah Brown managing to combine a repressed sexuality with her straight-laced credentials – and what a voice. Finn Tickel as the protagonist Sky Masterson convinced as the scheming lover in pursuit of Sarah Brown – and their midnight flight to Havana produced one of the shows stand out visuals with the Ensemble. The other unlikely couple completed the story with Grant McCotter’s crap game organiser Nathan Detroit who is wonderfully evasive to the Miss Adelaide demands to end their 14-year engagement and get hitched.
The Mission’s General Matilda played with a breezy confidence by Barbara Ingledew and Chris Born as the wise Arvide Abernathy brought the mission’s mission to recruit sinners to life with their New Yorker vowels – without a Bathonian accent to be heard. And they were given strong support from the band of Jacqui Cook, Christine Cope, Bradley Gill, Emma Jones, Annabel Latham, Julia Padfield, Maisie Poskitt and Kirsty Small.
Pip Knowles was outstanding as Benny Southstreet, while Paul Hobbs enjoyed himself as Harry The Horse and enjoyably roguish Matthew Graham as Rusty Charlie completed the gang of scheming small time gamblers. They were pursued by cop Lieutenant Brannigan played by Paul Cullen who was given the hopeless task of trying to catch the gamblers breaking the law.
The Hot Box Girls caught the eye with their crisp movement, glamour and costumes featuring Madeleine Woolgar, Frances James, Nicci Morgan, Natalie Warren, Kate Lodite, Abi Burgess, Megan Padfield and Sarena Matheson. While Huw Morgan (Joey Biltmore), Tim Conroy, Rich Howman, Ahad Khan, Huw Morgan and Robin Noad completed the Guys.
No BODS production is complete without the orchestra directed here by James Finbow, with a full complement of Bebbie Guy, Emily Pieczko, Dorottya Etheridge, Jeremy Morgan, Trudy Monday, Sue Lawson, Emma Powell, Berry Diver, Jonny Haygreen, Mike Daniels, Doug Wells, Luke Norland, Ashley Skerrett and Alex Kemp. Without them the musical theatre production cannot happen – but unseen these musicians created the wonderful backdrop to a highly enjoyable show.
The show runs nightly at 7.30pm to Saturday 13 May, 2023, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday and Saturday.
Tickets and information at https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/guys-and-dolls/
For more on Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society and to join the society to take part in future shows visit https://www.bathoperatic.com/
The main image: Guys and Dolls – BODS – George Miles as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Company – Credit Emil and Jonathan Boczek
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