Guys and Dolls

Apr 10 2015 | By More

★★★☆☆    On song

Brunton Theatre: Tue 7 – Sat 11 April 2015

Crisply led from the pit, Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association’s production of Guys and Dolls, at the Brunton until Saturday, swings in all the right places as it pushes the music to the fore.

MAMA’s intentions are clear right from the opening number: the tricky trio Fugue for Tinhorns, with Frank Loeser’s twisting lyrics and cleverly-integrated musical lines rising over the band, under the punctilious musical direction of Roy McGillivary.

The roling craps game reaches the swere. Photo credit MAMA

The roling craps game reaches the sewer. Photo credit MAMA

Justin Skelton, Mark Becher and Matt McDonagh ensure the meaning is clear as the tunes ripple over each other, with gangsters Nicely Nicely Johnston, Benny Southwest and Rusty Charlie setting up the tale of a gambling game dashed by true love in 1950s New York.

The suits are as sharp as the banter as the trio – joined by the rest of the gangsters all looking for a piece of gambling action – scoff at the Save a Soul mission, led by naive but well-meaning Sarah Brown.

The Guys are rather more concerned with finding out where Nathan Detroit will be taking his floating crap game next. As is Lt Brannigan, who is cracking down on the illegal gambling.

Director David Ross knows the company’s strengths as he sets up the twisting plot, keeping the blocking simple and allowing the music to shine.

 stunningly voiced

First to really let rip is the stunningly voiced Laura Paterson as Sarah Brown, whose upper register is as pure as the character she is portraying. There’s a real sense of her doubts at the mission, too, with Jim Lavery adding a strong presence as Arvide Abernethy.

Ali MacDougall’s Nathan Detroit arrives with the kind of nervous little laugh which befits a Mr Ten Percent who facilitates the gambling for New York’s violent and criminal fraternity. Well he might laugh so: not only does he have to finesse his gambling with Miss Adelaide, his fiancee of 14 years, but violent Chicago gangster Big Julie is in town – and he wants a piece of action too.

Miss Adelaide leads the line at the Hot Box. Photo credit: MAMA

Miss Adelaide leads the line at the Hot Box. Photo credit: MAMA

All these conflicting interests mean that Nathan has taken his eye off the dice. And, concerned that he won’t raise the $1,000 he needs to stage the game, he bets high rolling gamble Sky Masterson that he can’t take a Doll to dinner. The Doll in question being Sarah Brown.

Which really, is what this is all about – Nathan with Miss Adelaide, and Sky Masterson with Sarah Brown.

Claire Riddoch has great fun as Miss Adelaide, putting on her best, abrasive New York accent and tying Nathan round her little finger. She has the movement for the role too – flouncing on at the head of a procession of dancers from the Hot Box Club where she is the star turn.

When it comes to delivering her own numbers: the well known Bushel and A Peck and Adelaide’s Lament, in which the man-problem reason’s for her psychosomatic cold are made abundantly clear, she is big and strong of voice.

Meanwhile, it is down to Thomas McFarlane to sell the role of Sky Masterson. And he certainly has both the voice and the demeanour for the role. He is a bit static, but he gets the aloofness of this gambler who is prepared to bet his shirt on the colour of someone’s tie.

dynamic bouncing ball of fun

It is always great to see a company performing to the top of their ability, and MAMA are clearly doing so here, even though not everyone looks as if they believe in their own success. More movement – all round – would also help bring more life to the production.

Once the show is all set up – with a nicely done trip to Havana – the big numbers of the second half are able to really fly. The Hot Box girls have a ball with a well-choreographed Take Back Your Mink, while the sequence of Luck be a Lady and Sue Me is rounded off by a Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat which is sold perfectly by the dynamic bouncing ball of fun that is Justin Skelton.

A strong, thoroughly entertaining production which rediscovers the strength of its original material.

Running time 2 hours 45 mins (with one interval)
Brunton Theatre, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA
Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 April 2015.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Saturday matinee: 2pm.
Tickets from 0131 665 2240 (returns only)



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