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February 24 2019, Reviews The David Beach Competition


Guys and Dolls

Argyle Productions @North Curry (AP@NC)

North Curry Village Hall

Wednesday 20thFebruary 2019

I have long been a fan of Director Greg Phillips’ work: His ambition and drive to deliver the very best show his team can produce always impresses. Greg’s AP@NC group may not boast the biggest theatrical venue, the deep pockets of our larger societies or a huge catchment area from which to gather performing talent but, nonetheless they are not shy of attacking a full-scale musical theatre production like Frank Loesser’s iconic Guys and Dolls. The result was a highly enjoyable, good-looking evening of great tunes and much fun for the audience.

North Curry Village Hall presents quite a challenge to a Director, boasting a tiny stage, no wings and very limited lighting/sound systems: Make a show in there if you dare! Greg would need every ounce of his ingenuity to insert a show of the sheer size and scope that Guys & Dolls demands.

Greg’s stage design worked very well indeed: From the overture, during which vintage monochrome newsreel footage depicting a busy New York City was projected onto a simple centre-stage screen, setting the cityscape mood of hustle and bustle in preparation for the famous Fugue for Tinhorns opening, to the impressively robust, high up-stage walkway and staircase which added hugely to the depth (and height) of visual impact, there was much to admire. The opening splash of Mikey Wolfman as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Tim Richards as Benny Southstreet bursting through the screen only added to the cleverly thought-out spectacle. The well-painted scenery was deceptively simple but worked effectively to deliver some neat scene transitions from Broadway to Hot Box, from Sewer to Mission and despite a brief (heart-stopping for the Director) opening-scene moment when the main lighting rig blew the hall’s power circuit (very swiftly fixed and the cast smoothly carried on regardless), lighting worked well to give an attractive warmth and atmosphere to the piece. Costume, too was attractive, suitable and well thought-out.

Led, with a charming and engaging delivery, by the experienced and talented John Penelhum as the benighted and henpecked Nathan Detroit, performances from a large cast of very mixed levels of stage experience were easy to watch. Rachael Broddle sniffed and squealed attractively as Miss Adelaide; Phoebe Swinson looked suitably buttoned-up and prissy as Sarah Brown; Mikey Wolfman as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Tim Richards as Benny Southstreet looked the part and worked well together; Rachel Bellamy-Hall cross-dressed smoothly as Harry The Horse; Terry Sidley gave us a nice Irish brogue as Lt Brannigan; David Cuthbertson was exactly ‘right’ as Arvide Abernathy (including  a lovely rendition of  More I Cannot Wish You) and Ben Malone clearly showed his stage pedigree as the smooth Sky Masterson. Olivia Spall as Agatha, Lee Swinson as Mimi, Lynn Freston as General Cartwright, Tim Hill as Big Jule all supported the action with aplomb. The Crap Shooters and gorgeous Hot Box Girls added real vitality and fun too.

Direction was unfussy and effective: the action flowing pretty smoothly, with tidy movement and some nice ‘pictures’ being created – I particularly liked the two ladies of ‘indeterminate virtue’ adding to street scenes: their maintenance of focus and character was impressive. To be critical: For me there were a few too many deliveries of lines (and a song or two) in an upstage direction and I would have liked vocal projection to have been a little stronger: clarity was occasionally lost, especially against a slightly over-loud backing track and foot-noise off-stage (difficult but not impossible to avoid with practise) was a little heavy but cue-bite, solidity with lines and pace remained strong.

Although I would be hard pressed to argue that AP@NC’s Guys and Dolls be immediately ready for a West End transfer, the show certainly impressed me. This was a team of people doing their absolute best: They are not Broadway stars on a huge stage with all the bells and whistles with a budget of millions yet they have produced a very, very watchable full-scale musical, full of fun and charm. The story was clearly told, the characters were clearly defined and the songs and routines were delivered with confidence and commitment. What more could anyone ask?

Thanks for inviting me

Ian