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Review: Guys and Dolls – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 21 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 21 Feb, 2017

By Ferenc Hepp

On this week is the classic and well-loved Frank Loesser musical, Guys and Dolls, the choice of the Guildford School of Acting’s final year students for their annual appearance at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

The original show premiered on Broadway in 1950 and having won the Tony Award for best musical, it ran for over 1,000 performances and has enjoyed numerous revivals all over the world, including the most recent one in London’s Phoenix Theatre last year.

Guys and Dolls is a favourite with amateur theatre groups and this is billed as an amateur production as the students have not yet graduated. But I can assure you this show is far removed from what you would expect in your local village hall.

From the overture until the finale you can feel the energy from every single member of this young cast, whether they play a lead role or part of the ensemble.

Laurie Denman and Mari McGinlay have great chemistry as Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide

We learn from the director’s notes that the rehearsal process was rather experimental and the cast were encouraged to bring a number of their own interpretations of the scenes they were involved in to the rehearsal room with the proviso that each one had to be different in motivation and movement etc, with the director (Samuel Wood) on hand to question these choices and to guide the actors “gently” towards the final product we see on the stage.

This certainly worked and you can clearly see the distinct characterisation from each individual as well as the close teamwork from all involved, essential to pull off a large scale production like this.

Laurie Denman and Mari McGinlay have great chemistry as Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide, and make those characters their own with an abundance of energy and humour.

Plenty of laughs are also provided courtesy of Jed Berry and Lewis Cornay as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, with their wonderful facial expressions and sense of mischief and fun.

Samuel Wyn-Morris is perfectly cast as Big Jule and somehow achieves being intimidating, but also very funny, with the New York gangster version of a TOWIE outlook on life at the same time.

However, one of the most convincing and genuine characters in this version of the show has to be Sky Masterson, played by Evan Sutton. He looks very natural and effortless in the role, which is a pleasure to watch.

A bet from his gang leads to a genuine love interest in Sarah Brown played by Jessi Elgood who has a very powerful voice and belts out her notes with perfect pitch throughout all her numbers.

The choreography is stunning thanks to Darren Carnall, with the highlight being the number that surely everyone looks forward to most; Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, which received a well-deserved rapturous applause, the lighting designed by James Smith capturing the different settings in New York and Havana perfectly.

Do try and catch these talented students, on the verge of becoming professional actors, this week in Guildford. Soon you may have to pay double the price to see them in the West End, so remember where you saw them first.

Guys and Dolls runs until Saturday, February 25. Tickets are available via the website: www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk or by calling the box office on: 01483 440000.

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