by Molly Dowrick
I had high expectations for this year’s Swansea University’s performing arts societies musical Guys and Dolls, and I was not disappointed! I often attend shows by Swansea Uni’s Shoreline Theatre and having reviewed the 2016 PA musical Sweeney Todd for the Waterfront, I felt that I knew what to expect from a Performing Arts societies production. That being said, I was wowed by the incredible talent of the cast and crew for Guys and Dolls.
The production brought together performers from a variety of courses and colleges at Swansea University and a range of our students’ union performing arts societies, including Shoreline Theatre, Choral Society, Musicians Society, Dance Society and Show Choir. Directed by Jevan Cannon and assisted by James Hill, with musical directing by Catrin John and Will Bennett, Guys and Dolls has been in the works since May 2017, with months of planning and preparation followed by six months of rehearsals before the actual performance. The talented cast, aided by a fantastic backstage crew, drew the audience in and immersed us in this Swansea revival of the Broadway hit musical.
Based on the 1950 Broadway musical and the 1955 classic film (which starred Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons), the musical tells the story of con-man Nathan Detroit’s attempt to find a “new life” for his illegal “crap game”, whilst trying to keep his long-term fiancée Adelaide happy. The show sees Nathan’s usual venue for his game discovered by the police, so he has to find a new location for his gambling. Later, Nathan bets another gambler, Sky Masterson, that Sky can’t take a “doll” of Nathan’s choosing to Cuba for a date. Nathan chooses prim and proper Evangelist Sergeant Sarah Brown, and the love story between Sarah and Sky begins!
Guys and Dolls began with a fantastic musical number “Fugue for Tinhorns” by three gamblers, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet and Rusty Charlie depicting the craziness of gambling and the hustle and bustle of life in New York. Nicely-Nicely, Benny and Charlie, played by Rory Colman, Cameron Goodman and Joe Dickinson respectively, created a New York buzz on stage and really set an excited atmosphere for the performance. Later, Rory Colman and Cameron Goodman’s performance of the highly acclaimed musical number “Guys and Dolls” was brilliant and really encapsulated the optimism and excitement of the 1950s musical. I also want to note that Rory Colman’s rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat” was incredible. The Crapshooters and the women of the mission provided fantastic additional singing and dance moves whilst Colman performed an amazing version of the Guys and Dolls hit song.
Other main characters included Nathan Detroit being played by the incredible Nathan Woodford-Rôtt, who created a humorous and likeable Nathan Detroit. He had the audience in hysterics and rooting for his relationship with the bossy and intense Adelaide (Emma Price) to work out. Not only did Emma Price shine as the crazy and demanding Miss Adelaide but audiences were wowed by her fantastic singing – particularly in the popular number “Adelaide’s Lament”.
The dynamic between Caelan Sailes as Sky Masterson and Tess Morgan as Sarah Brown was also incredible. Caelan Sailes presented Sky as a misunderstood criminal, a criminal with a heart, while Tess Morgan’s Sarah Brown made audiences cry and sigh with empathy for the upset and virtuous “doll”. Caelan Sailes’ musical numbers were brilliant, audiences particularly loved “Luck Be a Lady”, sung by Sky and the Crapshooters. Tess Morgan is the only member of the Guys and Dolls cast who is a member of Show Choir and her singing provided a show in itself! Tess Morgan’s performance during Sergeant Sarah Brown’s demanding musical numbers, including “I’ll Know” and the fantastic duet with Adelaide in “Marry The Man Today” were outstanding and stunned the whole audience. The relationship between Sky and Sarah was presented brilliantly, as were the friendships between Sky and the Crapshooters. The passion from the actors was evident throughout the performance, and the chemistry between all the characters throughout the show was overflowing.
Geri Smits played Arvide Abernathy, Sarah’s grandmother and a member of the Save-a-Soul mission in New York. Geri Smits’ musical number “More I Cannot Wish You” gripped audiences and Arvide’s support and reassurance for Sarah was certainly uplifting.
Not only did Guys and Dolls feature fantastic singing, but gripping acting too. Hannah Brindley made an excellent and amusing gambler Harry the Horse, whilst Ellie Bergin was a superb and hilarious Lieutenant Brannigan, with Ariana Bello as a great harsh-but-fair General Cartwright. Kojo Otu acted a hilarious and intimidating Big Jule and Jinte Heijnen was a cute and sassy Mimi. Ruth Wilkins made a likeable and lovely Agatha, and the mission band of Maisie Whiting and Merlin Wadge added atmosphere and optimism to the stage. The crapshooters Eman Omar and Sam Binnie created a real gambling environment of tension and chaos and the hotbox girls, (Sophie Aplin, Rosie Seddon and Angharad Turner), danced elegantly and beautifully throughout the performance, undoubtedly aided by fantastic choreography by Sophie Bishop and Sarah McIntyre.
The orchestra (Nick Brown, Bryn Tawton, Maia Smart, Jocelyn Churchill, Rebeka Angstmann, Daniel Moore, Tom Ormsby, Tyler Cuddy, Oliver Kennedy, Bel Young, Edward Dibley, Andrew Cooper and Lizzie Findley) really encapsulated the various feelings and moods of excitement, guilt, surprise and relief throughout the musical and really added to the whole performance. This, accompanied by the antics of the stage crew (John Baddeley, Karen Ecsedy, Zita Ki, Kris Si, Jack Knight, Samantha Seeley, Laura Naidenov and Rebekah Sheppard, with the Arts team comprising Sophie Thomas, Lauren St John Jenkins, Chess Hutin and Maribel Esdaile), created a fun atmosphere between scene changes (note Jack Knight’s new pearl look) and made going to the play a great night out.
Shoutouts also need to go to John Fish (PA rep and Producer), Ash Cole (Sound Engineer), Tom Hunt (Sound Assistant), Tatiana Webb (Assistant Stage Manager), Michael Jeffrey (Lighting Designer) and Niall Carribine (Lighting Assistant.) Thank you for providing such a fun night and I can’t wait for next year’s musical!