Broadway came to the stage last night with a fabulous production of Guys and Dolls, performed by members of the Preston Musical Comedy Society. Directed by Neil Townsend this popular musical which has been delighting audiences for over 60 years was full of energy and vibrancy. With fabulous dance routines, a lot of hard work has gone into the show by all of the performers and credit is to be given to Lorna Cookson the choreographer. Unfortunately Cookson was unable to be at the performance as she has taken a position abroad for a couple of years, but I am sure she would have been proud of everyone.
The show begins with Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie, small time gamblers placing bets on three different horses. There follows a rendition of 'Fugue for Tinhorns' a difficult song, which they give an excellent performance on and setting the standard of the evening. Nicely-Nicely is a larger than life character and proves popular with the audience tonight, thanks to his portrayal by Barry Dilworth. Sidekicks, Southstreet (Peter Abbot) and Rusty (Mathew Whittingham) equally give good performances.
Nathan Detroit (Derek Winward) is the slick gambler boyfriend of showgirl Miss Adelaide (Julie Oldfield) who is desperate after a 14 year courtship to wed him, the last thing on Nathans mind. He has bigger worries as policeman Lt Brannigan (Andrew Marsh) has busted his venue for the illegal crap games he hosts and he has to find another place quickly, but is desperate to raise the money in order to secure a place. Winward and Oldfield are perfectly cast each doing justice to their characters with superb performances in both acting and singing. Miss Adelaide's desperate attempts to arrange a wedding date and to get Nathan on the straight and narrow bring plenty of laughs to the show.
So how to raise the cash? Well, doing what a gambler does best, Nathan makes a bet with a notorious gambler Sky Materson who is played with confidence and ease by Paddy Walsh. The bet is placed, Nathan gambling on the fact that Sky will be unable to take a 'doll' (woman) of his choosing on a date to Havana, Cuba. Sky accepts the bet but is dismayed to find that the 'doll' is actually Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission. Not accepting defeat he sets out to win the bet and attends a mission meeting. General Matilda Cartwright (Kirsty Chapman) is threatening to close the mission down if numbers attending do not increase, so Sky promises Sarah a dozen genuine sinners at the next meeting if she accompanies him to Havana. He is halfway there on the bet and surprises himself when he actually falls in love with her. Sarah is portrayed by Laura Ogden with just the right amount of naivety....'is there alcohol in Bacardi?' There is a captivating performance of 'More I Cannot Wish You’ between fellow mission member, her grandfatherArvide Abernathy (Eddie Regan) who, although he plays a small part, is totally memorable.
The Story continues with gamblers gathering for the next game including the arrival of notorious Big Julie (Mark Howard) who is keen to change his luck and brings along his own blank dice! Lt Brannigan is becoming suspicious as to what they are up to but is satisfied when they insist it's a bachelor party for Nathan, who in turn resigns himself to marrying Miss Adelaide!
There are many very good scene changes which on the whole are executed smoothly if a little slow at times, maybe the band playing during these would be beneficial as occasionally I thought the interval was about to take place.
The whole show is spectacular from the Hot Box dancing girls to the Craps shooters, each and everyone putting in all their efforts. Wardrobe and makeup should be commended for the many authentic looking costumes and hairstyles. Supported by a superb full orchestra which is always a big plus for me, it never ceases to amaze how 'professional' these amateur performances can be. Throughout the evening there are many wonderful songs including 'Bushel and A Peck', I've Never Been in Love Before', 'Luck Be a Lady' and a fabulous performance of 'Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat'.
Tonight is no exception and despite a technical hitch and a couple of first night nerves There are many very good scene changes which on the whole are executed smoothly if a little slow at times, maybe the band playing during these would be beneficial as occasionally I thought the interval was about to take place this production is well worth seeing and I would urge anyone to get along to the Charter Theatre, Preston to see Guys and Dolls which runs until Saturday 17th September 2016. For further information and tickets: http://www.prestonguildhall.com/events/view/348
Reviewer: Lorna Weekes
Reviewed: 14th September 2016