I attended the evening performance of Guys and Dolls on Thursday 17. Directed by Leiz Moore, Guys and Dolls is cast from the Musical Theatre Crew, with appearances from guest performers Jeff Michael and Andrew Hawkey. It was shown at the Playhouse Theatre. Guys and Dolls is a 1950’s Broadway comedy. Nathan Detroit, a gambler, needs a location to play his crap game which he has supposably stopped organising, according to his fiance Adelaide. The only location left that the game can be played is in an automotive garage.
The owner of the garage wants a thousand dollars before the gamblers can use his garage. To get this money, Detroit bets a fellow gambler Sky Masterson, that he cannot take a “doll” to dinner with him in Havana. Sky and the “doll”, Sarah brown, fall deeply in love. The musical ends with Nathan Detroit and his fiance of 14 years getting married. The band consisted of keyboard, 2 trumpets, a trombone, 3 reeds, drums and bass. The music was very entertaining. The play featured a lot of pieces with swung rhythm and the songs often changed tempo and feel as well.
The show began with “Overture” for orchestra. This piece started off in a straight feel but then changed to a swung feel. The brass and reeds featured very heavily in the band, especially in “Fugue for Tinhorns” sung by characters, Nicely Nicely, Benny, Rusty. The band was very “together” throughout the whole show and were obviously very well prepared. They produced a fantastic sound and the dynamics were well done. The soloists and the ensemble worked well together and with the band. It was obvious to see the cast appreciating the live accompaniment.
The temperature in the Playhouse was comfortable. Temperature affects tuning of instruments such as strings and brass. The tuning and intonation of the players was very good. They all had a consistent tone and there were no noticeable mistakes or intonation errors with any of the songs. I was very impressed with the singers. For the most part they had strong, bright voices. In several of the songs, a few cast members sounded as if they were straining their voices as they reached for the climatic high notes in their solos.
Although the cast and band complimented each other, there were several times where the vocals were a little drowned out, even with the singers using microphones. The band wasn’t necessarily too loud, it seemed that the singers’ microphones weren’t loud enough. In saying this the band could have been slightly softer in some songs. The need for this was evident in “Fugue for Tinhorns”. It was hard to hear the lyrics over the brass section especially. Their deep rich sound and tone filled the relatively small theatre and they sounded beautiful however they were a little too loud for the singers in my opinion.
The band in the Playhouse Theatre was down in the orchestra pit. In the Playhouse this is underneath the stage in a straight line. Along the front of the stage, there are removable panels which cover the orchestra pit so that when the theatre is being used for a play that does not require a band, the orchestra pit does not become a distraction. In the guys and dolls performance. These panels are removed. Conductor and keyboardist lestyn Perry was sitting at the keyboard just in front of the front row seats, not in the actual orchestra pit.
This is so that he could watch the cast and conduct the band accordingly. The acoustics in the theatre were very good. They helped project both the sound of the cast and the band right up to the back of the gallery where I was sitting. Guys and Dolls is a very upbeat and lively comedic musical. Everything from the costumes to the upbeat music was very enthusiastic. As an audience member, it made the show that much more enjoyable to see the cast and band really enjoying themselves.
One of the only things that I feel would improve upon the already fantastic performance is a little more attention to the dynamics of the vocals in relation to the music. As Guys and Dolls is set in America in the 1950s it was obvious why the cast members were putting on American accents. There were several very good American accents and unfortunately they seemed to expose the not so good accents. Again this is not something that can be avoided. Skills such as being able to adopt another accent is just something that comes with practice.
The music of guys and dolls was always enthusiastic and fun, but at times it became a little too similar and repetitive. Music such as that of well-known production Les Miserables to me, sounds more varied. This is in no way a reflection on the band or the cast, as they both performed this show to a very high standard. I enjoyed Guys and Dolls a great deal, however I don’t think that it will become my favourite musical. I look forward many more great performances from the Musical Theatre Crew and associated musicians.