Theatre in Wales

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Production Maturing into Something Special

At Theatr Clwyd

Theatr Clwyd Cymru/ New Wolsey Theatre/ Salisbury Playhouse- Guys and Dolls , Grand Theatre, Swansea. , March 16, 2011
At Theatr Clwyd by Theatr Clwyd Cymru/ New Wolsey Theatre/ Salisbury Playhouse- Guys and Dolls A month back “Guys and Dolls” brought the opening night Mold audience to its feet. It was good then but it feels better now. The outsider can make his guesses. Director Peter Rowe has been giving his notes. Musical director Greg Palmer has been listening to the sound in a full auditorium. In the mix there is also ease, familiarity, the confidence that comes from success and the sheer professionalism of the musician-actors.

The production starts with a joke. But the snapping of trumpet mouthpieces in imitation of loading a machine gun looks sharper, funnier. Benny Southstreet’s double-jointed twitches are twitchier. Officer Brannigan’s swagger and smirk have grown. The accents have strengthened. Harry the Horse is definitely “Harry the Hoyse”. Big Jule is nastier by a degree. Nathan is looser-limbed. Sky has grown in cool poise as gambler and in intensity in love as the romantic lead. Even a snigger from Nicely Nicely seems to have more malice in it.

The band in “the Hot Box” sounds punchier. Havana is more wild and bacchanalian. The all-male choreography for “the Oldest Established” is crisper, Agatha’s movements are slinkier. Georgina Field is one of the cast who was also in the Watermill’s “Hot Mikado”(reviewed 4th November 2009.) That was a great show, but “Guys and Dolls” is greater, but only because Frank Loesser is greater than W S Gilbert.

“Modestly conversational and brilliantly dextrous at the same time” is Sondheim’s tribute to his fellow lyricist, and “genuinely funny.” The title song has lines like “When you meet a gent paying all kinds of rent/ For a flat that could flatten the Taj Mahal” or “When a bum buys wine like a bum can't afford/ It's a cinch that the bum is under the thumb…” As a hymn to the night “My Time of Day” is the equal of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale.” It is a bold lyrical gift that rhymes “work” and “clerk” with “streptococci lurk.” (In “Adelaide’s Lament” and throughout Rosie Jenkins captures the character’s mix of charm, sincerity and toughness.)

It’s been a dismal winter; casualty departments overwhelmed with fractured joints, pipes cracked, homes flooded in their thousands. Decent theatre companies have died. But snowdrops are now in blossom and a mighty shout should go out to Ipswich and Salisbury. For theatre-lovers in those towns something special is heading their way.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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