First of all, we have to keep in mind that, no matter how dedicated, passionate and skilled an amateur group can be, they’re just never going to have the budget or time resources to compete with the big boys. That being said, York Light’s production of Guys and Dolls is a very solid effort.
Guys and Dolls puts a warming touch on the gambling world when Sky Masterson bets he can take any girl to Cuba… enter Sarah Brown, a missionary. Never to change his ways, Sky bets Sarah he will get a dozen sinners to go along to her midnight prayer meeting in a quirky and characterful plot that’s packed full of content.
Martyn Knight’s direction and choreography is quite clunky in places, and he doesn’t really have the cast to play around with dance routines and attempts at comic timing. The show seems split into two halves: those that can do, and those that can not.
Storming ahead in the first category is Richard Bayton and Pierre Alain Van Griethuysen as Nicely Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, respectively. They’re a great double act and Bayton’s rendition of Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat is sublime. Thank goodness the audience has him to engage with while the rest of the cast hilariously struggle to sit down and stand up in time to the music. I also like Andy Roberts in the role of Nathan Detroit. He has all the charisma the part needs and the vocals to go with it.
It’s a shame three out of four of the main characters fall awfully flat. Annabel Van Griethuysen as Sarah Brown is a little too sassy in the role but her acting skills aren’t too bad. Her vocals are also lovely until she hits the high notes. She really struggles at times, which makes for uncomfortable listening. Same goes for Rachael Wilkinson as Miss Adelaide.
George Morgan, who plays Sky, has no problem holding a tune. His vocals are incredibly powerful, it’s just a shame his stage presence isn’t and it’s hard to imagine a gang of gamblers giving a hoot what he thinks or does.
The show’s greatest credit is the musical itself of course. Packed full of great tunes, humour and warmth, it’s hard not to enjoy elements of the production and I think the team did a great job.
The set changes completely distract from the action, unfortunately. Bringing down a poorly produced backdrop while the set behind is noisily changed to another highlights the true difference between an amateur and a professional production. The costumes in this production were beautifully chosen, however, and there are moments in the play I forget I’m not watching a pro team do their thing.
Catch Guys and Dolls at York Theatre Royal until 17th March 2018.