No-one rocking the boat on new production of Guys and Dolls
- Credit: Archant
The classic American musical romantic comedy about a couple of big city gamblers and the women who love them is being staged by Bury St Edmunds Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society.
Recognised as one of the classics of musical theatre, Guys and Dolls was selected as a Pulitzer Prize winner in its launch year and it was given the Royal National Theatre seal of excellence with a production in 1982.
Guys and Dolls has music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows and is based on several of Damon Runyon's famous short stories about the gangsters, gamblers and low-life characters of New York's underworld in the 1930s, in particular his tale called The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown.
Its Broadway premiere got rave reviews in 1950. It ran for 1200 performances, a long run in those days, and won the Tony Award for best musical. It has been revived several times in New York and London and turned into a movie starring Marlon Brando.
The original book for Guys and Dolls had been written by Jo Swerling but director George S Kaufman said that version was unusable and Burrows was called in to doctor the piece and give it some pizazze. This caused a new headache because Loesser had already written the songs and the new book had to be put together so that the story would lead seamlessly into each of them.
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Guys and Dolls is the next production for Bury St Edmunds Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society. It's a show they have never done before and is directed by Simon Bowen who loves this musical. 'It's one of those shows that's got it all really: great music, great dancing and dialogue, and it is chock full of great characters, all of whom have a strong part to play. It's really good stuff.'
It is also really a story with two leading men and two leading ladies - Sky Masterson, a legendary American high-roller who is suckered into betting he can seduce the attractive, uniformed dedicatedly religious Sarah from the Save-a-Soul Mission and Nathan Detroit, a clever illegal crap-game entrepreneur, who has been engaged to Miss Adelaide, the singer at the Hot Box club, for 14 years. Sky and Sarah have the romantic ballads, Natham and Adelaide get the fun parts and numbers. Adelaide's Lament, bemoaning her attempts to get Nathan to the altar is hilarious.
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'Sky is the romantic lead, the suave gambler respected from coast to coast but Nathan has the meatier part and you can understand why Sinatra was attracted to it,' says Bowen.
The songs are some of the best in the business and include I'll Know, If I Were a Bell. I've Never Been in Love Before, Luck Be a Lady and Nicely-Nicely Johnson's show-stopping Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat. Bowen says he's got the team to do this musical justice, with Will Cahill as Sky, Liam Corbett as Nathan, Katie Woodhouse as Sarah, Rachelle Curtis as Adelaide and Jamie Maguire as Nicely-Niceley.
What is more, he says, the characters are coping well with Damon Runyon's special dialect, a strange mixture of straight New York and underworld slang. 'They found it difficult at first reading it off the script but as they've learnt their lines, they have enjoyed the language and grown more easily into their roles.
'It was a show before its time because, if you look at the sub-text, it's the men who appear dominant, as they tended to be at that time, but it's the women who eventually get their way. It's the women who change the lawless men, not the law,' he laughs.
He really likes the story of how one of the smartest gamblers in the States is tricked into betting that he can't win the favours of the bible-thumping Sarah, slowly falls for her and then proves himself to be a four-square fellow in the most extraordinary fashion.
• Guys & Dolls, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, May 10-13, 7.30pm, 2.30pm May 13, £20-£10, 01284 769505, www.theatreroyal.org