Guys And Dolls
Tue 19 to Sat 23 November 2002
Palace Theatre, Redditch
Producer – Beverley Hatton
Musical Director – Norma Kift
Choreographer – Val Archer
Society Accompanist – Pauline Sherlock
|Harry the Horse
Light and shade
A happy show overcame enormous first-night lighting problems, particularly before the interval. There was the follow-spot that appeared incapable of following and very often there was insufficient general illumination. And at one point the lights went out altogether while the action carried on nobly.
But it is peopled by a supporting company of lively characters, amusingly played.
Tony Jay (Nicely-Nicely) and Liz Bird (Miss Adelaide) have the pick of the opportunities and they seize them well. At the heart of the action, Michael Hawkins (Sky Masterson) has a splendid voice, but he is not a romantic lead and Julie Keeley (Sarah) does not seem to be as much at home as she has been in other roles.
Evening Mail, Wednesday 20 November 2002
Redditch Operatic Society carried on their proud tradition of staging shows with a hugely enjoyable production of Guys And Dolls. With six shows played to sell-out audiences, the society can feel justifiably proud of their latest offering.
The standard of singing was excellent and the choreography, designed for the first time by Val Archer, well thought out – there was always something interesting going on. I particularly enjoyed the drunken bag lady played by Paula Eaves to great effect, a sort of running gag throughout the show.
It is difficult to pick out individual performances as the whole cast performed well, but both leading ladies, Julie Keeley as Sarah Brown and Liz Bird as Miss Adelaide were very good. For the ‘Guys’ Michael Hawkins gave a strong performance as Sky Masterson, and Tony Lacey as Benny Southstreet and John Baker (sic) as Harry the Horse both did well.
However for me the stars of the show were the Redditch Advertiser’s own Mark Williams as Nathan Detroit who gave an outstanding all-round confident performance; and Tony Jay as Nicely-Nicely Johnson who got a lot of laughs and also brought the house down with his rendition of Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat.
It was noticeable that a lot of the gentlemen in the show were getting on in years and in their excellent programme the society does ask for new members who will start rehearsing next year for their next show, Carousel. I, for one, can’t wait.
Redditch Advertiser, Wednesday 27 November 2002
ROS put on a lively performance at the Palace Theatre. This story, set in New York, tells of the unlikely union between a Salvation Army sister and a persistent gambler.
Sky (played by Michael Hawkins) stole the hearts of the audience as the loveable rogue, while Nathan Detroit (Mark Williams) charmed them with his happy-go-lucky ways. Both men played a strong lead and were complemented by the acting of the other male characters, especially Big Jule (Nigel Green) and Harry The Horse (Barrie Cole).
The brashness of the gamblers contrasted well with the sensitivity of the grandfather (played by Maurice Clarke) who had the pleasure of conducting the wedding ceremony at the end of the story. Miss Adelaide (Liz Bird) and Sarah Brown (Julie Keeley) also added humour to the performance by forming an unlikely alliance which resulted in them finally becoming brides.
The stage was constantly busy from beginning to end, displaying the skilful acting of the chorus members.
Redditch Standard, Friday 29 November 2002
I was very impressed with this production by Bev Hatton who made the most of the small stage for the large cast needed in this wonderful show.
Sky and Sarah were, er, rather mature for their roles but the other principles were very well cast. Nathan (Mark Williams) and Adelaide (Liz Bird) were excellent as was Nicely-Nicely (Tony Jay), who brought the house down with Sit Down You’re Rockin the Boat. Benny, Big Jule and all the smaller roles were very well played with an outstanding Harry the Horse from Barrie Cole.
The orchestra gave the show superb balance and costumes and lighting were spot on.
NODA News, Midlands Area, Spring 2003
These days, we don’t often repeat shows, especially ones that were only performed just over a decade ago, but Guys And Dolls was a most popular choice for our 2002 show.
Our producer, Bev Hatton, was joined on the production team by Val Archer as choreographer, and together they had the difficult task of keeping our large company fully occupied throughout the show. This is not easy. Whilst Guys And Dolls has a good number of principal characters, and plenty of opportunity for the male chorus (who appear in all the big numbers) there is not a great deal left for the female chorus to do. Bev and Val worked tremendously hard to keep the ladies occupied, and succeeded by creating a diverse set of ‘background’ characters who kept the stage moving throughout.
The feedback from our audiences was excellent. Many stated that this was the best show that they’d seen in ages (mind you, they often say this!). The reviews, too, were generally very positive, with the exception of the comments from the Evening Mail who pointed out the deficiencies in the lighting on the opening night. This, however, was sorted out for subsequent performances, and all went well thereafter.
The scenery was special, too. Gone were the dozen or more scene changes of our 1991 production, to be replaced by an excellent all-in-one set that included steps, doorways, an opening at the back that doubled for the Hot Box Nightclub and the sewer scene, and even had the show logo colourfully displayed on the floor.
All this, and a top notch cast and superb orchestra, provided for an excellent show that will long be remembered by both company and audiences. Whilst the box office numbers were slightly down on 2001’s Pirates of Penzance, the later shows were near sell-out’s and it does seem that we will make a small profit on this production (most unusually!) despite it having the biggest budget, at over £16,000, of any of our shows to date.
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
Background on Damon Runyon
Alfred Damon Runyon lived and died a New Yorker, even though he was born in Kansas in 1884, and never saw Manhattan until aged 26. The son of a printer, by the age of fourteen he was writing articles for local newspapers, developing a dry, laconic style of prose which was later to become his hallmark.
In 1910 he was sent to work in New York and became instantly obsessed with the big city, moving there to work on the New York American, initially as a sports writer. Almost from the beginning he was a success, always being where the big story was. He was a correspondent during the First World War, and wrote of the chase of Pancho Villa through Mexico.
His vivid, wry style of writing soon drew him a large audience, and he became one of the foremost journalists in the city. He started writing fiction to supplement his newspaper salary, taking his Broadway associates and squeezing them into grotesque shapes, with names like Harry the Horse, Dave the Dude, Joey Perhaps and Regret. His stories made a huge impact, and they swept the country. Soon after, Hollywood got in on the act when movies such as Lady for a Day, A Slight Case of Murder and The Lemon Drop Kid were culled from his stories.
In all he penned almost eighty tales of Broadway, mostly set during the Depression and Prohibition. These stories ignored the glamour of the city lights, and concentrated on life at pavement level where gamblers, crooks and hookers haunted the bars, pool halls and crap games of Times Square.
Runyon was intrigued with the seedy underbelly of downtown Manhattan, and became addicted himself to gambling, the boxing ring (he didn’t miss a heavyweight boxing championship bout in thirty years) and especially horse racing. Although he could barely talk in the last months of his life through throat cancer, he still continued his ’rounds’, seeking inspiration for his unique stories.
Guys And Dolls is the first musical from Runyon material, and is based on a story called The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown. It is ideally summed up by a quote from one of his characters, thus:
‘When a guy is knocking around Broadway as long as The Brain, he is bound to accumulate dolls here and there, but most guys accumulate one at a time, and when this one runs out on him, as Broadway dolls will do, he accumulates another, and so on, and so on, until he is too old to care about such matters as dolls, which is when he is maybe a hundred and four years old, although I hear of several guys who beat even this record’.
A musical fable of Broadway, based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon.
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser.
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.
An amateur production by permission of Josef Weinberger Ltd on behalf of Music Theatre International of New York.