Stars in the sky

We start this week with Stef Drea having a ball…
A musical that premiered on Broadway in 1950 would not normally appeal to Millenials like me and when I discovered it was called Guys and Dolls (Bridge Theatre), it did make me wonder what I had let myself in for. OMG this “immersive” production, directed by Nicholas Hytner, is an amazing and memorable show. It is staged in such a way that whether you are comfortably seated or one of the lucky people on set (I was) being moved around by marshals dressed as New York coppers, the show is extraordinary giving you a unique theatrical experience.
Set in New York during the Depression, it’s basically a story about gamblers (Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit) and the women who love them (Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide). Sounds a bit dated but the show doesn’t come across like that because these women take no prisoners and kick butts when they need to. When the hoodlums from other big cities turn up for Nathan’s “crap game” (dice), it begins to kick off and as it does, we are treated to song and dance numbers that are fun, raunchy and sharp, always fitting perfectly with the storyline. The choreography is a modern twist on the classic Hot Box stuff and works brilliantly, especially when one considers the limitations on space.
Although we were there to see new cast members, including Owain Arthur (Nathan), Timmika Ramsay (Adelaide) and Jonathan Andrew Hume (Nicely-Nicely Johnson), all of whom are excellent, the whole ensemble of performers are fantastic and do a great job in playing to all corners of the theatre, a task not easily done when performing in the round as they do. The undoubted ensemble highlight, Sit Down, You’re Rockin the Boat, led by Nicely-Nicely is stunning, a showstopper! It got three encores. The band cum mini orchestra are also banging with musicianship and create a buzzing atmosphere. Whatever your age, this musical will not disappoint, it is immersive brilliance.
Meanwhile, I was on the trail of an alleged murderer. A young man accused of killing his abusive father. Eleven of the jury made up of twelve “men with ties and a coat” are sure he did it. One man is not. The 1957 three-time Academy Award nominated film, Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men (Yvonne Arnaud), has since become a pulsating stage drama, and this touring production, directed by Christopher Hayden, lives up to expectation. The production initially simmers with underlying tension and as the drama and disagreement among the jurors build – they are all numbers without names – it finally explodes into an unexpected and gripping climax. It is a fascinating exploration of the complexities of the jury system and how we are all challenged to look beyond our personal biases in assessing the evidence. Not easy.
Each of the jurors begin to leak out information about their own backgrounds and life experiences and as they do so, the open and shut case becomes a dilemma and their own preconceived ideas about the accused are questioned. The cast are excellent and this is a cracking ensemble piece of emotionally coruscating theatre that is also quite humorous in parts. I did find myself laughing out loud, to the consternation of my companion, when one or two of the jurors displayed juvenile alpha male behaviour. Michael Pavelka’s set is simple and incredibly effective at conveying both place and atmosphere. A room, a locked door and a table which turns very slowly throughout. Time waits for no man, innocent or guilty. Electric entertainment.
Coming up soon at the Arnaud is The School for Scandal, promising romance, revenge and rollicking fun.

Guys and Dolls –
Twelve Angry Men –

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