Following last year’s sell-out success of Rent, Edinburgh University Footlights are back with Guys and Dolls, a romantic comedy set in 1930s New York City.
Based on two books written by Damon Runyon – ‘Blood Pressure’ and ‘The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown’ – Guys and Dolls follows the story of gamblers in New York City, mainly Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, and the women who love them. When Nathan Detroit (played by Tom Whiston) finds his venue for a crap game busted by the police he attempts to find the cash for another by winning a bet against Oliver Barker’s Sky Masterson. The bet is that Sky cannot take Sergeant Sarah Brown (played by Ellie Millar), head of Broadway’s Save-A-Soul Mission, to Havana, Cuba. However, despite a slightly rough start, like in many rom-coms, Sky is so successful that he ends up falling in love with Sarah himself.
Initially upon entering the theatre your eyes are drawn to the band which was raised on a platform at the back of the stage. The band, conducted by Steven Segaud, was incredibly talented and right from the start became one of my favourite parts of the entire performance.
Although the lighting in the first half was a little too flashy, during the second half the lighting complemented the other action on stage, especially in the Crapshooters Ballet. However, the use of the smoke machine was rather excessive, with smoke suddenly pouring out in unnecessary moments which actually just served to conceal the action on stage and cause audience members to cough.
The set was fairly simplistic, consisting of a silver bridge at the back of the stage and small set changes. Whilst the set was used well to mark the different locations within the show, the transitions often took a long time which became more noticeable as the play went on. Whilst this was sometimes due to the musical interludes between scenes, which is more the fault of the script, some effort could have been made to make these long gaps between scenes less noticeable.
Director Lucy Evans took an interesting twist on some of the characters through gender swapping them to play tribute to the female gangsters of the period, particularly Big Jule (played by Lila Pitcher).
The cast was packed full of talented singers and dancers, and the four leads, Millar, Barker, Whiston and Mae Hearons who played Miss Adelaide, cannot be faulted for their performances. Ellie Millar captured the emotional range of Sarah Brown which director Lucy Evan’s said she wished to portray. Similarly, her drunken Havana night was so accurate that it must have reminded many audience members of themselves after a few drinks. The New York accents were another particularly praiseworthy aspect of the performance as it was clear all the actors had worked extremely hard. Particularly Mae Hearons accent, which was extremely impressive, and it would not have been absurd to believe it was her own.
Grace Dickson’s choreography was excellent, particularly noteworthy was the Crapshooters Ballet which demonstrated the talent amongst the cast. However, for me, the highlight was when Adam Makepeace (playing Nicely Nicely Johnson) sang ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ with such an incredible voice that it blew the audience away.
To conclude, whilst I had never seen Guys and Dolls before and, in all honesty, it was not my favourite musical, it is worth watching because it was a well-cast and well-performed musical.