Saving the best until last...
Guys and Dolls, Kindred Drama, Key Theatre, August 22 - 25
It’s been a great summer for theatre in and around Peterborough with professional touring companies and local amateurs putting on some fantastic shows.
But for me, not even the best of them came close to this youth theatre production of Guys and Dolls. In fact this was one of those rare occasions when everything came together to create a transcending artistic experience, dynamic, colourful, and deeply moving.
First, there’s the feelgood show itself. Premiered in 1950, it’s one of the very best American musicals, fully on a par with Oklahoma, South Pacific, and the rest. It offers a plot that’s exceptionally strong, and a delightful array of adult fairytale characters lifted from the wacky New York stories of Damon Runyon. There are episodes at the Hot Box club and in Havana which offer opportunities for lavish dance sequences. But, above all, Guys and Dolls contains around 20 catchy, memorable, and distinguished songs, most famously Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat and Luck Be a Lady Tonight.
But, the other numbers are superb too and in this production some of the less familiar songs shone brightest. Like the gorgeous romantic duets I’ll Know and I’ve Never Been in Love Before, the feisty Marry the Man Today, and the irresistible When You See a Guy.
Another number that came across brilliantly was the opening Fugue for Tin Horns, sung with confidence and aplomb by Ben Landy, Harvey Jones, and Joe Price. Not to mention clear diction and convincing American accents.
Soon after, one of the two male leads appears. He’s Nathan Detroit who’s desperately searching for a venue for a gambling session. In a naturally commanding performance Jamie Glasby dominated the action whenever he was on stage. His fiancée Miss Adelaide was played by Colleen McQuillen with total commitment and a squeaky little-girl voice that survived both her hilarious Lament and the patter-song You Promise Me This.
The other male lead is super-gambler Sky Masterson, given a sympathetic and credible performance by Calvin Weston. He accepts the impossible bet that he can take ‘mission doll’ Sarah Brown on a dinner date. As Sarah, Ayesha Patel made an outstanding contribution in her Jekylland-Hyde role, embellishing the duets with Sky with some sweet soprano singing.
There were other memorable solos, but the last word must go to the entire company of nearly 50.
As you’d expect, the Dolls contributed some delicious dance routines with plenty of elegant legwork. But, surprisingly the Guys also produced some choreographic hi-jinks in their spectacular dance in the gambling joint.