For their 2018 Spring Production, Edinburgh Musical Theatre transports us back to 1950s New York in toe-tapping fashion, with their production of the popular musical Guys and Dolls at King’s Theatre. Join hapless Nathan Detroit (Colin Richardson) and audacious Sky Masterson (Alex Kantor) as they attempt to navigate the befuddling worlds of the Guys and the Dolls.
The musical opens with Detroit, who must find the money to rent a venue for an illegal crap game, without his fiancée Adelaide Adams (Kirsten Adamson) discovering his criminal ventures. Masterson, a notoriously reckless gambler, presents the opportunity to win this money by betting Detroit that he can convince any woman to fly with him to Havana. Like any mob-themed show, the male egos are flying almost as high as the levels of female tolerance for sub-standard men, but at least the dated plot is supported by some genuine talent from the actors.
It is the Dolls, Adamson and Naomi Barkley as Sarah Brown (the unwitting target of the Guys’ bet), who amaze the audience with their stunning vocals. Adamson is a delightfully plucky Adelaide who brings charm and much-needed enthusiasm to the role, with A Bushel and a Peck injecting the night with a real burst of energy. Barkley demonstrates great versatility as her character transforms from uptight missionary to heartbroken dupe, reaching some operatic heights before joining Adamson in the depths of their New York twang.
The supporting cast are, at times, a little flat in their delivery, with the acting being secondary to the singing. However, Tony Jackson’s Nicely-Nicely Johnson performs an enjoyable Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, which is sure to have the audience dancing in their seats. Kantor also comes into his own with a suave rendition of Luck Be a Lady, which shows off his own musical talents in a catchy song that successfully mounts suspense as the second act draws to a close.
Some of the group dances are a little untidy, though I’m sure this was just down to opening night nerves. On the whole, Bekki Black’s choreography is enjoyable to watch and dotted with comedic elements, such as Adelaide and Sarah’s fantasies of their Guys in married life, which are well-incorporated into the set. The milieu is fun and intriguing without detracting from the action, with the lighting expertly directed to diversify the set available. The spotlight is used especially effectively in Adelaide’s solos, as it accentuates the isolation of a Doll competing with the fast-paced world of her Guy. The costumes are eye-catching and wonderfully vintage, though it would be refreshing to see a bit more individual characterisation to distinguish within the groups of the gambling henchmen and Adelaide’s debutantes.
As an amateur production, there is certainly room for improvement, however director Louise Sables perfectly sums up EMT’s adaptation in saying: “Guys and Dolls has reminded me of another truly essential function of theatre; escapism”. Whilst the plot is a little cliché and the characters somewhat one-dimensional, the cast still manages to whisk you away for an evening of 50s nostalgia and light-hearted revelry, making for a fun night out for all.
Guest reviewer: Georgia Turnbull