Guys And Dolls
Mon 18 to Sat 23 November 1991
Palace Theatre, Redditch
Director – J Barrymore Lee
Musical Director – Norma Kift
Choreographer – Lesley Stocker
Society Accompanist – Joan Chandler
|Harry the Horse
The accent is on success
J Barrymore Lee’s production begins excellently with the ‘freeze’ which becomes one of the best-planned street scenes I have seen. But it falls down when people start to speak. Too few of them have the accent and the adenoids which are the calling card of Damon Runyon’s characters – and without them, much of the humour lacks the extra edge.
Notable exceptions are Julian Wilson (Nathan Detroit) and Tony Jay (Nicely-Nicely) – the latter excelling in the show-stopping Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat.
Barbara Hall pleases as Sarah. Kevin Hirons is a personable Sky Masterson. The chorus work is impressive. The show runs until Saturday.
Evening Mail, November 1991
Taking a chance on love, Broadway style
With a cast of over 50 and the best costumes and set I’ve seen on an amateur stage for a long time, Redditch Operatic Society’s Guys And Dolls was a triumph. From start to finish the audience was treated to a lively, colourful, well-presented show.
The setting was Broadway in the 1950s and the story was one of good versus evil. The ‘good’ were the Salvation Army fighting to save the souls of the ‘bad’, the gamblers.
The gamblers bet one of their number, Sky Masterson (Kevin Hirons), that he couldn’t whisk away Sarah Brown from the Salvation Army to lunch in Cuba. He won the bet, promptly fell in love with Sarah and thus followed a battle of souls.
With 17 scene changes, the director J Barrymore Lee and his production team had their work cut out, but coped admirable with excellent sets.
All the cast played their parts well but special mentions must go to leads Nathan Detroit (Julian Wilson) and his mill Miss Adelaide (Loraine Wainman) who were very funny.
Redditch Advertiser, November 1991
What a romp
Redditch Operatic Society presented Guys And Dolls at the Palace Theatre, and what a romp this turned out to be. I love Damon Runyon’s libretto and find it about the only script you can read and laugh out loud at.
All the characterisations were very well portrayed (what a big ‘Big Jule’) and the show moved along with pace this is so necessary to this piece.
The orchestra complimented the players with sympathetic support. Too many good performances to single out anyone, suffice to say ‘a most enjoyable night out’.
NODA News, Midland Area, Spring 1992
This was one of the most enjoyable shows the Society has ever done. The Damon Runyon characters combined with so many excellent and well-known songs make Guys And Dolls one of the greatest Broadway musicals.
The show particularly suits a big company like ours. Apart from the thirteen principal parts there is a lot for the company to do – from the ‘guys’ and ‘dolls’ of the title, to the members of the Salvation Army’s mission band, to Miss Adelaide’s ‘Hot Box Girls’ (her dancing troupe). Added to this number were Lesley Stocker’s dancers from the Woodlands School of Dancing, who performed the ‘Havana’ dance.
In total, there were 56 performers in this show – quite an amazing feat considering the small size of the Palace Theatre stage.
The six-night run played to very good audiences, with a fill of around 80%. The show was so much enjoyed by the Society that we were delighted to reprise it in 2002.
Synopsis of the Show
- Fugue For Tinhorns
- Follow The Fold
- The Oldest Established
- I’ll Know
- Bushel And A Peck
- Adelaide’s Lament
- Guys And Dolls
- If I Were A Bell
- My Time Of Day
- I’ve Never Been In Love Before
- Take Back Your Mink
- More I Cannot Wish You
- Luck Be A Lady
- Sue Me
- Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat
- Marry The Man Today
Frank Loesser began writing lyrics for vaudeville acts in his spare time whilst working as a city editor on his local newspaper in 1928. During the Depression he lost this position, and had to endure many other poorly paid jobs before landing a playing/singing spot at a club called ‘The Back Drop’. This was to become immortalised in Guys And Dolls as the Hot Box Night-club.
Loesser was always confident of his talent as a lyricist, but he also decided to experiment writing his own music. His first full song, Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition was well received, and have him the confidence to approach Broadway.
There, after demonstrating his competence to various producers, he was given the chance to work on a new musical called Where’s Charley? The show was moderately successful, but it was Loesser’s songs such as Once In Love With Amy and My Darling, My Darling which won over many critics, one of whom wrote in the New York Times that Loesser was ‘the greatest undiscovered composer in America’.
His next show was to be Guys And Dolls. The original book, written by playwright Jo Swerling was deemed unsuitable by Loesser, who nevertheless used it as a basis for his songs, which were complete by the time Abe Burrows was hired as the new author.
The book was duly rewritten around Loesser’s works, but there was one song, Fugue For Tinhorns, which seemed to be without a natural slot in the play. This problem was solved by using it in the opening scene, thus setting the mood of the colourful Runyonland.
Guys And Dolls not only confirmed Loesser’s reputation as a song writer, but also exposed his volatile temper. During one rehearsal of Luck Be A Lady, he threw himself at the choreographer with a flurry of four letter words because his lyrics were not being sung loudly enough. On another occasion he was so infuriated with the leading lady’s attempts to sing I’ll Know that he leapt onto the stage and punched her on the nose!
The show, however, was a great success, winning praise from the audience and critics alike. The 1955 film version starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra was also successful, despite the fact that songs such as A Bushel And A Peck were replaced, and others were introduced for the benefit of Sinatra’s Nathan Detroit.
Other Loesser works include the songs See What The Boys In The Back Room Will Have and Slow Boat To China, and the musicals The Most Happy Fella and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
Those who have not seen a production of Guys And Dolls prior to this may well find themselves pleasantly surprised that there are no weak numbers in the whole show. Abe Burrows, the second author, realised that Loesser had virtually written the libretto himself, and he was just needed to fill the gap between songs. However, this does not mean that the story is weak – quite the opposite. Guys And Dolls is a perfect combination which classically captures the essence of Damon Runyon’s exciting world.
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser. Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.
Based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon.
By permission of Josef Weinberger Ltd, on behalf of Music Theatre International of New York.