Monday, 25 March 2013

Guys & Dolls - Hessle Theatre Company

Chris Holmes as Nathan Detroit (L) & RIchie Donaldson at Big Jule - for more photographs see HTC Facebook Page

On Friday last week, Keith and I went to watch this musical show at the Hull New Theatre. It was a first time for both of us, although Sally, who we went with, had appeared in it a few years ago with another society and she recommended it. We were not disappointed. Having no prior knowledge of a show can sometimes be much better since you have no pre-conceived ideas of how it should be staged, who should play certain characters etc. Even though there was a synopsis in the programme, and I read it before the show began, I still was a tad confused until the characters actually appeared on stage. The synopsis had too many characters and different story-lines for me to grasp all at once, but that didn't matter once the show began.

Here's a more concise version, as shown on the Hessle Theatre Company's website recently:

In the twilight world of gangsters and their molls, Nathan Detroit is losing his grip on the institution of the floating 'crap game' (the dice gambling scheme he runs that switches venue to avoid detection by the local police) and is desperate to find the money to pay for the only location he can currently get his hands on. To seal the deal and quell the tempers of the gangsters who are gathering in town and keen to 'shoot crap', he bets his buddy, Sky Masterson, a thousand dollars that Sky will not be able to take a local Salvation Army girl, Sarah Brown, on a date to Havana.

Meanwhile Nathan, engaged for fourteen years to cabaret artist Miss Adelaide, is struggling to keep her demands for marriage at bay, whilst she continues to battle with the symptoms of an incessant psychosomatic cold that plagues her all the time she is waiting to go down the aisle...

We've seen Hessle TC performing several times over the years, and they always put on a very professional production, despite the majority of their members being amateur and having no formal training. We look out for realism whenever we watch a live performance, whether it's musical or a straight play, and I would say that 99% of the performers achieved this. Having many years of experience in amdram ourselves probably makes us more aware of how hard it is to achieve such a standard - we are limited in our theatre due to the size of it, so cannot compare in any way with such a large company. However, we still strive to be as professional as possible and I can only hope that we give our audiences as much pleasure as Hessle gave us last week.

Onto the show itself. The opening scene was a visual feast. What impressed me more than anything was how well choreographed it was. The whole company were in that scene, in Times Square in New York. I didn't know who to watch, as everyone was moving at the same time, but it was all very carefully planned and seamlessly put together - big congratulations to Martin Beaumont, the director and choreographer.

The musical numbers weren't all to my liking, although none were on my hate list either! I think I was particularly impressed with the song sung by Terry Halliwell who played Sarah Brown's Grand-father, Arvide Abernathy - his number "More I Cannot Wish You" was very moving and he had a lovely tone to his voice. It was really good to see Richard Skelton in the role of Sky Masterson - the love interest of Sarah Brown. He used to be a member at Bilton Amateur Dramatic Society, and was in the same first play I was in there 23 years ago! Back then, I think he preferred singing to acting, but to see him on stage on Friday, you wouldn't know - he was equally impressive with his acting and singing ability. His American accent was faultless, too.

I liked the comedy portrayed by Russell Fallon in his characterisation of Nicely Nicely Johnson - he even raised his speaking voice a pitch to add to that comedy element, and obviously enjoyed spending much of the time eating!!! He was central to one of my favourite scenes, the song ""Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat", and you can see a clip of it here:

What impressed us so much about that particular number was not just the way it was choreographed, which was effective in itself, but the way everyone knew exactly what they were doing and when - not one person was out of sync, and they changed positions throughout, too - credit to everyone involved with this number!

The actress playing the part of Adelaide, Sarah Lazenby, was stunning. Her acting skills and singing voice put together were first rate, and I really enjoyed her performance throughout - particularly in her solo piece, "Adelaide's lament".

I have been reflecting on the show all weekend, and it's not often that a production has such an impact, but this one certainly did. The attention to detail within the direction was evident throughout - one moment I will never forget is the scene in the Mission when all the gamblers are looking in through the window for quite some time before any of the characters in the scene realise. They are almost stuck to the glass, as if they've been paste on from the outside, and it had a really comical effect. I loved the way the signs lit up in Times Square, the backdrop for the underground tunnel with all the pipework etc, and the shop fronts such as the Barber's shop window and the Tailor's shop. It all added to the atmosphere of the production and must have taken a lot of time and effort to create (I'm assuming it was created by Hessle and not hired in, actually - but even so, the scenery was excellent).

I thought Chris Homes played a superb role as Nathan Detroit, and I did wonder if he actually does walk like that in reality or if he just created a perfect stoop for the part! His facial expressions were clearly visible even from where we were sitting in row "O" - no opera glasses required for his acting, that's for sure.

I was also mightily impressed with the "Big Jule" character, played by Richie Donaldson. I don't know how he managed it, but I've never heard such a deep voice in my life. Perhaps he just naturally speaks in a deep tone, but for this character it was perfect and every time he spoke or sang, I was mesmerised!

If I could remember the show in detail (and not just bits of it that stand out) I would write more, but as it is I will just say that I am so pleased Sally suggested we went with her, and that we were entertained from start to finish. I did not want it to end, it was that good. Oh, I also loved "Luck Be A Lady" - the singing and the choreography were both top notch.

I look forward to their production of "Oklahoma" which is their next big show I believe.

Hessle Theatre Company have a website where you can read all about their history, see photographs of past productions and even apply to be a member if you wish: Hessle Theatre Company

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