The International Writers Magazine

Damon Runyon's 'Guys and Dolls'
Director Dominic Symonds and Musical Director George Burrows
The Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Feb 9 - 11th 2006
Review by Kate Maskell

Students of the University of Portsmouth have done it again! After just three weeks of intense rehearsals, the University’s school of Creative Arts, Film and Media have produced under the direction of Dominic Symonds, the musical Guys and Dolls.

The project aims to imitate the inside workings of a professional theatre company, from auditions to the final performance, with over six hours of rehearsals a day, lots of dancing and lots of singing. After preparing as the professionals do, the University of Portsmouth have created a high standard, professional performance.

Guys and Dolls is a "musical fable of Broadway" from the 1950s, which became the fifth longest running Broadway musical. It’s based on the story and characters of Damon Runyon, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, and has now been adapted by Director Dominic Symonds and Musical Director George Burrows.

It tells a tale of New York life which is made up of Guys and Dolls, of no-good gamblers, Salvation Army do-gooders and Hot Box girls. New York is a twenty-four hour city where there is always action, as Nathan Detroit (Alex Hilman) desperately seeks a place, away from the watchful eyes of the police, to hold his "crap game" eh herm… "Dice game". Realising that the only place left in town to hold this frowned upon event will require him to produce $1000 from thin air, Nathan makes a bet with the big man in gambling, Sky Masterson (Andy Burrell). The bet is that Sky can’t take a "Doll" to Havana, and when Sky thinks he has it in the bag he realises that Nathan has chosen the most unattainable woman in New York, Sarah Brown (Suzannah Brooksbank) from the mission band. The action continues down at the "Hot Box" club where Adelaide (Susie Richardson), Nathan’s fiancé of fourteen years tries to push her "Guy" into finally marrying her, claiming that he’s the one responsible for her constant cold.

Everything is set up and ready to roll as the audience is plunged into a game of romance, religion, gambling, money, music and laughter. The stage takes a trip from the dark streets of New York to the colourful scene of Havana. Although Sky has won the bet he seems to have also won Sarah’s heart. Yet, as always in musicals, true love never did run smooth, and Sarah rejects her feelings when she discovers that Nathan’s "floating crap game" has taken place in her holy mission, not quite the turn out of "sinners with souls to be saved" she expected. But good old Sky saves the day and in the end everyone’s game is won.

Perhaps when people first think of a student production they would not expect to see one quite as good as this, and in fact during many moments in the show it is hard to believe that you are sat in the Theatre Royal in the middle of Portsmouth and not in the West End. Dominic Symonds direction and Barbara Hockaday’s choreography is flawless, every moment is perfect and professional. The dances are astounding and sharp and it is very clear that the whole cast work brilliantly together and that they enjoyed themselves throughout the whole performance. Leading ladies Suzannah Brocksbank and Susie Richardson would be hard to beat as they both capture the characters perfectly. Suzannah’s voice is amazing as she fills the theatre with her vocal power and Susie is perfect for the role of Adelaide, she gives the performance everything she’s got, both ladies really show off their talent for both singing and acting.

Alex Hillman also shows off his skills as an actor in his role as Nathan Detroit, from his brilliant American accent, to his high pitched breathlessness when he’s nervous and his great singing. Amy Dunmore will have you rolling in the isles with her performance as Big Julie, the gangster-gambler with a big reputation. Every action is big and clear and the delivery of many of her lines is terrific and hysterically funny. The atmosphere has been developed terrifically on the stage and the "chemistry" is amazing between all of the characters, particularly between Sky and Sarah and Nathan and Adelaide. But most importantly a musical could not be successful without good music and it is clear that Musical Director George Burrows has done a great job with the cast. The songs are strong and fun, and numbers such as "Luck be a lady" and "Sit down your rocking the boat" will have you dancing and singing along in your seats, and it helps that the cast have a terrific orchestra accompanying them.

Developed American accents, intense physical and vocal warm ups, songs learnt and perfected, dances constructed and rehearsed, scripts thrown to the floor, costumes found, stage design up, make up on, lights up and go…all in just three weeks. No doubt it has been a tough three weeks for the whole cast but each and every one of them make it a great show. So roll up and get involved in the game, it’s certainly one that everyone can enjoy full of dancing, song and laughs. You’ve only missed the opening night and I have no doubt that the performance is just going to get better and better.
Book now- it's a short run: Tel: 0239 2649000

© Kate Maskell Feb 10th 2006

Theatre, Guys and Dolls,, Guys and Dolls - a musical by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows: A Brief History,

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