When: November 10th, 2015
What: Guys and Dolls Musical
Where: Q Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand
It seems like forever ago since I went and saw Guys and Dolls during my first trip to New Zealand (I’ve been again since then) – and I guess, it probably is true. So why write a review now? What could possibly be the point? It’s not as if, you, the reader, can go and see said show after being so inspired by said review. All after, the show ended at the beginning of December.
But I think it’s important to support the theatre community and all of its performances, so perhaps after you finish reading said review, it will inspire you to see the next show that the Q and Auckland Theatre Company people put on.
To be honest, I think it is important for the people of my generation to see classic musicals, such as this, HMS Pinafore, West Side Story etc. The audience will probably be full of people who are very close to receiving letters from the Queen. But despite all this, you will get to see some really sweet, well written, catchy stories.
Of course, there are always going to be things aren’t relevant today. That can’t be helped. Why do they need to get a blood test, for example, to get married? But at it’s core – it is a story about love. And different kinds of love too. I also think its a story about doing the right thing by one another.
But I don’t want this write up to be about analysis the story. That’s not what this is about. So let us move on, shall we?, to the production at hand.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many productions in my life, both amateur and professional, with various degrees of money and weight behind them. I’d never seen an New Zealand production before this, and I didn’t know fully what to expect. First off, I was surprised by what a small theatre the Q is. A small theatre often makes me think that it’s a small production, but I don’t think this rings true for this.
Starring as Nathan Detroit, was New Zealand-favourite Shane Cortese (Mac from Nothing Trival, Colin in The Almighty Johnsons etc). A small production could never get such a recognizable name as Shane’s. When I first heard about this production, I was convinced that Shane was to play Sky Masterson. I see him more of a Sky Masterson-type. Sky is charming and charismatic, and I see that in every character that I’ve seen Shane play. Although his performance as Nathan Detroit was good, he was perhaps out-acted by his mustache (which I mistook for the charity, Movember)
I kid, of course, but I do think Shane would have been better cast as Sky. Roy Snow, as Sky, was utterly charming, as well as Rachel O’Connor as Sister Sarah Brown – who went from do-gooder to flirty temptress with ease.
The stand out for me was Geoffrey Dolan as Big Jule. What a class act, and always one to stay in character, even when the focus wasn’t on him. One could argue, if you know what kind of a voice that Geoffrey has, you could think he was somewhat underutilized in this production. Of course, that is to say, that that comes to the overall story, and not Geoffrey or anyone involved in this production of the show. He would do well as a character lead with big musical numbers, and not in such a minor role. Still, he shines, and was definitely someone whose performance I enjoyed and appreciated throughout the show.
I have to compliment the people behind the casting, for their terrific job. I have never seen such a manly cast of men in a musical. That will probably read badly, but I mean that in the best and most-non offensive of ways. Guys & Dolls is a very manly-driven show, and that’s exactly what you get. There is a lot of strength behind the characters. As the title suggests, it’s about Guys and Dolls. Dolls, as you can imagine, is all about the glitz and sparkles (especially during Adelaide’s numbers), and that too, was present.
I also quickly want to mention the great performances by Kyle Chuen and Andrew Grainger, who played Benny Southstreet and Nicely-Nicely Johnson respectfully. Both actors impressed me. I also remember being very impressed with the choreography, especially when I know some of the actors weren’t so comfortable with dancing.
All involved in the art director should also be praised for their efforts. There’s not much I can fault in terms of costumes, but the real stand out is the use of the set. There’s not much going on in terms of size, but with some clever design, a little turns into a lot. This is evident at the beginning of the story on the streets, as it is at the club, and in Havana. This seems to be a popular option for musicals these days, but this show definitely utilized it best, especially with the big heavy-looking doors with Guys and Dolls glittered on the front.
As my first performance I’ve seen in New Zealand, it definitely didn’t disappoint. I was unsure if Shane and Roy could live up to the amazing performances of Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando from the 1955 film version, but I was not disappointed. If you’re looking for a comparison, you’re never going to get it. It’s best just to enjoy the performances and take them both for what they’re worth. Because, let’s face it, the actors aren’t playing the actors playing the characters. They’re actors playing the characters. That’s all they can do.
The Auckland Theatre Company puts on many different productions each year, and it’s well worth going along to – there’s a good chance that you will enjoy yourself!