I'm a Melbourne based freelance journo. While I mostly concentrate on music, I'll write about anything else that grabs my fancy.
Riveting production of Broadway's funniest musical
Guys and Dolls - July 2014 Arts Centre Melbourne
Nothing is left to chance tonight. This is a fresh and fast-paced production of Guys And Dolls and there are no missteps. The super talented four leads are expertly cast and more than ably supported by the balance of the line-up.
Although the musical premièred in 1950, there's no sense that this production is dated. For a start, rather than being a staid period piece, the Production Company has cleverly created a stylised version of downtown, seamy 40s/50s US somewhere. The costumes, bold blasts of colour, are a nod to the eras rather than vintage reproductions, and the set, while spare, is perfectly evocative. Rather than distracting from the performances and characters with an elaborate moving set, simple themes are repeated to excellent effect - a neon crucifix hung above the stage signifies Miss Sarah Brown's mission, metallic red streamers lets us know that we're at the Hot Box and a dice backdrop spells the floating-craps game. It's been pared back just enough to make it clip along at pace, without the sense that anything was sacrificed.
[ADVERT]After filing in piecemeal and casually, the orchestra, which is sitting above the stage on scaffold, starts with the Overture. This is a medley of the show's tunes and many are instantly recognisable, even if you've never seen the musical before.
First out of the box is Nicely Nicely Johnson (Bobby Fox), who sets the tone for the show. He's affable, slightly daft, thoroughly upbeat and can sing and dance the heck out of anything.
The premise for the show is that the local cops are clamping down on illegal gambling. Nathan Detroit (expertly embodied by Adam Murphy), a small time crim, is notorious for his long running floating craps games. However, he's finding it increasingly difficult to find a place to house a game under scrutiny of the fuzz. He can secure a joint, but only if he fronts the venue a 1000 bucks for security. In order to raise the funds, he bets slick gambler and dedicated bachelor Sky Masterson, played smoothly by Martin Crewes, that he can't make the next woman he meets fall in love with him. When the next woman turns out to be Miss Sarah Brown (Verity Hunt-Ballard - best known for her award winning performance as Mary Poppins), it would seem that Nathan has the bet in the bag.
In the meantime, Adelaide, played by Chelsea Plumly, Detroit's long suffering fiancé is keen to settle down.
What results is damn funny and it's the language and finely observed performances that make it so. You get the sense that all of the lead characters have a genuine affection for their roles and the production, which helps, as does the chemistry between the leads. The combos are a perfect foil for each other.
While everyone is in super-fine voice and the choreography is energetic and entertaining, the ladies deserve special mention. Miss Sarah manages to be prim and likeable, which is not an easy balance, and Adelaide is downright mesmerising. She steals virtually every scene she's in.
I'm not going to throw in a spoiler and divulge why it's so funny, but keep an eye out for the MGM style burlesque number at the Hot Box – it's particularly memorable. As is Sky's version of Luck Be A Lady Tonight. No wonder Sinatra included it in his repertoire.