Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Guys & Dolls" - September 2010

While we don’t often get along to Glasgow’s thriving amateur scene (largely due to my preference for contemporary writing and limited tolerance for musicals) we booked up for Theatre Guild Glasgow’s “Guys & Dolls” as a friend from my ‘day job’ is involved. And while we are happy to maintain our policy of treating amateur productions in the same manner as we do professional ones, Richard’s participation in one of the lead roles has given me a bit of a problem. I’d given plenty of thought about how I would deal with the situation if he wasn’t particularly good - and I don't think it would have caused any difficulties. And having seen him in a previous show I was at least confident he wouldn’t be awful. But I never considered how problematic it might be to review him if he was very good. And he is. Very, very, good. I wouldn’t want him (or anyone else) to think that his favourable review was undeserved. Waldorf & I discussed the possibility of her writing the show up to keep things at ‘arm’s length’, but we wanted to have it posted sometime this month, so you’ll just have to accept my assurance that he’s been given no favours. And as it happens, I think one of my comments is sure to upset him.

But back to the bigger picture. The show impressed from the moment we walked into the auditorium and caught sight of the stunning backdrop of period advertising signs (although we did notice that one element appeared to have been assembled upside down). Sliding shop frontages create street scenes while The Mission set is creatively realised; the underground gamblers den in the sewer looks fantastic and the Hot Box club is simple but effective. Add in some fantastic costumes, atmospheric lighting, live musical accompaniment and a large scale cast and this looks very much a million dollar Broadway show. But while we would never use ‘amateur’ in a derogatory manner there are moments in some of the dance and ensemble numbers when it feels just a little bit short on polish. However the two ‘showstoppers’ “Luck Be A Lady” and “Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat” were beautifully executed.

There was a bit of a range in quality of the performances in the ensemble roles and some were hindered at times by issues with the sound balance – particularly the trio of David Sturgeon, Cameron Lowe & Robert Kirkham as Nicely-Nicely, Benny & Rusty. So much so that David Sturgeon’s splendid rendition of “Sit Down” came as an unexpected revelation. The whole cast deserve credit for sustaining their accents throughout, but it's the four lead performers who really raise the show up a level.

In her early scenes I found Lisa-Jayne Rattray's cutesy 'New Yoik' accent as Miss Adelaide pushing the wrong buttons for me, but as the show progressed I was able to look beyond that personal irritation and recognise an impressive comedic and vocal performance. Neil Campbell also contributes much to the comic relief as crap game organiser and reluctant fiancé, Nathan Detroit – including some nicely worked elements of physical comedy. As Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah, Caroline Telfer displays fabulous vocals and endows her character with an air of earnestness without making the contrast with the character’s emotional side too jarring. As high stakes gambler, Sky Masterson, Richard Magowan personifies cool and has a genuine stage presence. He delivers his musical numbers with a powerful voice and subtly invests every line of song or dialogue with the character’s emotions.

But I’m afraid I’m risking Richard’s wrath when he returns to the office next week, as I have to provide an honest response and identify the elements that didn’t work quite as well. Should Caroline Telfer get the chance to read this, I’m afraid we found the slap Sarah delivered to Sky a bit “wishy washy” (to quote Waldorf). I’ve yet to see a ‘pulled’ slap deliver the intense reaction in an audience that a real one does, so, we suggest just giving him a proper slap that will echo round the theatre – he’s a big lad, he can take it. Sorry, Richard.

There were a couple of minor quibbles I had with the text of the show itself. I was left feeling a bit cheated that we didn’t get to witness the reunion between Sky & Sarah and there were a few American cultural gags/references that meant little to a Glasgow audience. My watch tells me this is a long show with a run time of just over 2 hours 30 minutes, but my mind knows that it absolutely flew in and the 90 minute first act went by in a flash. It also generated the strongest ‘buzz’ I’ve felt from an audience leaving a theatre for quite some time.

This was a thoroughly entertaining evening, even for someone who isn’t the greatest fan of musicals, and the RSAMD New Athenaeum theatre makes for a great home for it.

Guys & Dolls runs at the RSAMD until Saturday 18th September (including a Saturday matinee).
Image used with permission

6 Heckles

rory said...

I was absolutely dismayed about the comments relating to Lisa-Jayne Rattray's "cutesy accent" - is the reviewer at all familiar with the character? I attended the production on three occasions and heard from fellow patrons comments such as: "Miss Adelaidde is amazing!" - "The girl who plays Addelaide is fantastic" - "Miss Adelaide made the show" and many more!!! These are the reviews that matter! Miss Rattray's stage presence, utter likeability, fantastic comic timing, excellent acting and voice made an Adelaide that was far superior to the west end! A weak, nondiscript accent would not have worked at all. Adelaide's character is funny, gutsy,with a pronounced accent, just as Miss Rattray portrayed her! I suggest you familiarise yourself with the character of Adelaide before posting ridiculous comments!

Statler said...

Hi Rory, I apologise if I didn't make myself clear enough in the review. I agree entirely that it was an excellent performance from Lisa-Jayne Rattray and that the cutesy 'New Yoik' accent was entirely in keeping with the character. But it is an accent/tone that I have a bad personal reaction to in any character - something close to nails down a blackboard. That I was able to look beyond that and recognise her 'impressive comedic and vocal performance' should be taken as an indication as to how good she was.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, however I feel as you do not like the New York accent and it is like "nails down a blackboard" to your ear, you will already be biased. Your comments are personal to you and therefore unfair and not valid to the person in question. Why press your own personal thoughts to readers of this site; I feel it is unprofessional. Negativity was expressed at first, by yourself and in my opinion totally uncalled for. If I was Miss Rattray I would not be too happy!

Anonymous said...

I agree with rory - what kind of reviewer expresses such a silly comment because he dosen't like the accent! Absolutely no need for it whatsoever! To single out adelaide was cruel, the WHOLE cast had the same accent. As the reviewer has said - the dislike of the accent is personal to him - why would we want to know this? I along with 5 other people thought the whole show was excellent, we were all particularly impressed with adelaide and this was also shared with conversations with other patrons at interval and end. My colleagues who attended show with me are also of the same mind that comment was wrong and uncalled for

Anonymous said...


Waldorf said...

Can I remind everyone of the exact quote in Statler's review that seems to be upsetting people - the emphasis is mine.

In her early scenes I found Lisa-Jayne Rattray's cutesy 'New Yoik' accent as Miss Adelaide pushing the wrong buttons for me, but as the show progressed I was able to look beyond that personal irritation and recognise an impressive comedic and vocal performance.

This actually is a huge compliment to Lisa Jayne Rattray's performance as she was able to turn around initial negative feelings to the character caused by a clearly admitted personal foible of Statler's. In addition it's not the New York accent in general that Statler had an issue with, but the Betty Boop-esque style of accent (hence the phrase cutesey 'New Yoik').

For new visitors who are coming here for the first time and are unfamiliar with VFTS. This is a personal blog of ours in which we share our thoughts on what we've seen at the theatre. Our Welcome and Are You Positive? posts will put our viewpoint in context.

I hope that clarifies things.