An assault on the senses from the opening curtain – sassy sets, vibrant costumes, energetic actors drawing us into the hustle and bustle of New York in a well-choreographed street scene – was a taste of what was to come.
It held the promise of another polished, professional piece from the youngsters of the Beck Youth Theatre, and there was plenty of scope for members to shine in this show with its big cast of characters.
The loveable hoodlums were top-notch: Nathan Detroit, who had been running illegal crap games ‘since he was a juvenile delinquent’ was skilfully played by Connor Cranston, ably abetted (ha) by fellow gamblers which included Dominic Potter as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, George Jones Leonard as Benny Southstreet, Charles Titmuss as Rusty Charlie, Mark Rae as Harry the Horse and Christopher Underhill as Big Jule.
Their American accents, often a weak point for less talented companies sounded authentic and the dancing was faultless.
I particularly enjoyed the number, Luck Be a Lady, where the ‘guys’ displayed brilliant macho moves, worthy of the Jets and Sharks in Westside Story, but the ‘dolls’ were excellent too.
I loved the cheeky, sultry Hot Box cuties, especially dancing to, Take Back Your Mink, which although written in the 1950s could easily have been sung by WAGS in an episode of Footballers’ Wives.
Sophie Griffin, perfect as Miss Adelaide who caught a cold at the least sign of stress, squeaked her way through some of the best lines. Fed up with being engaged for 14 years, with no wedding date in sight, she even translates neglect by fiancé Nathan as a hopeful sign. “I like it when you forget to buy me presents. It makes me feel like we’re married.”
The two principals might have had a hard job to stand out against such a background of talent but they delivered too, with powerful performances. Andrew Franklin as Sky Masterson, the good-hearted gambler, was appropriately masterful with just the right combination of tough and tender when dealing with his leading lady.
Aisling Lally as Sarah Brown, his love interest, was great as the buttoned up Sally Army soldier who falls for a gambler, and their scene in Havana was a hoot after Sarah’s milkshakes were laced with Bacardi. “It’s just there for preservative,” Sky tells her as she becomes in danger of not just letting her hair down, but her dignity, her calling, and everything else too.
Well done to the band which rocked its way through more than 20 numbers. Many, such as I’ve Never Been in Love Before, and Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, were familiar to oldies in the audience, and of course to all lovers of musical theatre.
Already famed for their high standards, this show actually took BYT’s reputation to new levels. And what voices! The principals, ensemble members and probably the backstage staff too were confident, tuneful and totally committed to character throughout this brilliant team effort.
Guys and Dolls, Beck Youth Theatre, April 9-11 at Beck Theatre, Hayes.