HELEN MUSA’s weekly arts column features opening concerts and shows in Canberra
“GUYS and Dolls” is packed with memorable Frank Loesser tunes as they tie together a mythical story about ’50s New York and a pair of gamblers, a cute nightclub singer and an idealistic missionary.
With great credit to vocal director Emma White and musical director Jenna Hinton, the fabulous songs were particularly well sung in this colourful Queanbeyan Players production. There was plenty of humming in the foyer post show – the classic test of success!
Kitty McGarry has served a long theatre apprenticeship playing support and chorus roles in shows ranging from “Winnie the Pooh” to “Phantom of the Opera” so well deserved her promotion to leading lady. As Sarah Brown, the missionary “doll”, she sang with excellent pitch, projection and tonal quality, real understanding of lyrics and beautiful, clean diction.
Tina Robinson captured the essence of the adorable Miss Adelaide wonderfully well. Her interpretations of “Adelaide’s Lament” and “Take Back Your Mink” drew the exact sympathetic response required and her duet with Sarah, “Marry the Man Today”, displayed vocal timing of the highest quality.
Anthony Swadling as Nathan Detroit, the gambler who runs the “oldest established crap game in New York”, made an impressive Canberra stage debut with fine comic timing and lyrical quality while Steve Galenic, as Sky, began somewhat tentatively but, again aided by good singing, settled to produce a solid performance.
Among the many support roles there were three most commendable performances – Ben Wilson was a terrific Nicely-Nicely Johnson; Tristan Foo, a great Benny Southstreet and Robert Grice, as Abernathy, was pleasingly tender and gently in his rendition of “More I Cannot Wish You”.
The orchestra was positioned on stage so became an even more integral aspect of the production. Under enthusiastic conductor Jenna Hinton the required big-band style was well captured with just tuning weaknesses evident throughout in the reed section and similar issues in the strings during the quieter musical moments.
The set was colourful and functional, but the staging limitations of The Q meant set changes were necessarily long, which interrupted the pace of the show.
Director Jude Colquhoun harnessed a large cast giving meaningful performance opportunities to all but there were a couple of odd directorial decisions. The “audience” at the Hot Box nightclub consisted of six women and just one man. That’s a most unlikely scenario in a seedy Broadway club late at night and should have been avoidable with the cast resources available.
There are three very long musical numbers in “Guys and Dolls” – the overture, “Havana” and “Luck be a Lady”. In many productions these are shortened as movement/dance ability needs to be of the highest quality to sustain attention for their lengthy duration. Such ability was not of that standard so those scenes did drag and again slowed momentum of the show.
Colourful costumes from Suzan Cooper, Fiona Leach and Tanya Taylor suited the era and story perfectly, sound from David Tricks was spot on and, apart from oddly neglecting to light the MC as he thundered his introductions of the Hot Box dancers, lighting from Liam Ashton was appropriately supportive.
Congratulations to Queanbeyan Players who continue to raise performance standards and production values with each show they present. “Guys and Dolls” is highlighted by fine singing throughout, bet you 10-to-1 you’ll still be humming “Bushel and a Peck” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” for days after you see the show!