beautifully irresistible, offering up an enticing, joyous score, perfectly executed story line and a vibrant collection of characters and personalities
Guess what? Selected tickets are only £7 each week day for people under the age of 26, at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, meaning that the theatre is now accessible to students! Simply show your recent student ID card as well as a form of ID to show you are under 26 for 80% off full price tickets.
Here at Student Life Guide we have partnered with the Royal Exchange to keep you up to date on what’s on in the theatre this season.
This week, I went to the press night of hit musical Guys and Dolls, here’s what I thought.
The Christmas production at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester always serves up a refreshing alternative to the typical panto, with Guys and Dolls certainly delivering up a fresh take on a musical, Broadway masterpiece.
Co-produced between the Royal Exchange and Talawa Theatre Company, the musical is set in late 1930’s Harlem and features an all Black cast, celebrating the vivacity, music and culture of Black America.
Based on the book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, the story follows the lives of Sky Masterston and Nathan Detroit, two gamblers definitely playing the game of life. Nathan is reluctant to marry his fiancé of fourteen years, for fear of losing the high life; whilst Sky also prefers life in the fast lane; ‘I like to travel light’ he quips, when asked why he is not taking a ‘doll’ on holiday with him.
As both men are gamblers, the main focus centres on a bet, as Nathan bets Skye $1000 that he can’t take missionary, soul-saving Sarah Brown to dinner in Havana- a task which turns out to be quite the challenge as the show progresses!
Guys and Dolls offers an abundance of humour, both witty and effortlessly stylish in nature; with suave names such as ‘Liverlips’ Louis, Society Max, Angie the Fox and Nicely Nicely Johnson perfectly presenting the character’s personalities.
Abiona Omonua’s Sarah Brown and Ashley Zhangazha’s Skye are stunning as the love focus of the play, oozing with the all-important chemistry and frivolity associated with young love, their dance in Havana being my personal highlight; the stage coming alive with vibrancy, music and colour, being lit brightly from above to symbolise the Cuban sun.
The characters present a rather human quality, with the female leads questioning one another as to why they put up with their men, ‘because I love him’ Adelaide concedes, summing up her infatuation for Nathan, her finance of fourteen years, and in turn laying her character bare to the audience.
For some, this feature could be frustrating, with someone from the audience even murmuring ‘no Adelaide’ beside me, yet it does represent the vulnerability of the show’s characters, an aspect that I enjoyed.
The musical of course offered up a bountiful collection of upbeat songs, with Zhangazha’s rendition of ‘Luck Be A Lady’ oozing with effortless style and grace and Ako Mitchell; Nicely Nicely Johnson, absolutely perfecting one of the main performances of the night with his leading part in ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’.
Dance wise, performances were exceptional, enthusiastic and joyous, it was more than tempting to get up and dance along, with a lot of people in the audience definitely tapping toes or clapping in certain places.
In the Havana scene, it was enthralling to feel the music speed up in pace and grow in sound level as themes of jealously and love were explored.
The show delivered up on a wide variety of strong performances, both musical and acting wise, Simon Hale’s approach to the score gave the musical a jazzy feel, with Adelaide’s hit number consisting of ‘Pet me, Poppa’, a more upbeat song taken from the 1955 film.
Ray Fearon’s Nathan Detroit and Lucy Vandi’s Miss Adelaide displayed a rather complex couple, engaged for fourteen years, the script mixes the bittersweet humour of Adelaide writing to her mother, stating she already has five children, to her intense sorrow and cold induced symptoms caused by her heartbreak.
Nathan’s obsession with gambling and Adelaide’s frustration is intermingled through religious themes, comedy and heartbreak, an interesting combination which makes for a thought-provoking feel to the show.
It was refreshing to see people of all ages in the audience, a clear indication that Guys and Dolls can easily appeal to all with an admiration for musical. Guys and Dolls is definitely toe tapping and at times, absolutely hilarious, with the actors pausing elegantly to allow the audience to laugh and feel involved in the story.
The overall appeal of Guys and Dolls is beautifully irresistible, offering up an enticing, joyous score, perfectly executed story line and a vibrant collection of characters and personalities, one which earned its standing ovation.
The feel-good music and endearing resolution will leave you contently humming the hit songs all evening.
Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Director: Michael Buffong
You can visit the Royal Exchange site to find out more on Guys and Dolls here.