Guys and Dolls is an immensely fun show, but not an easy one to do. For RicNic, it is a return to where the company began. RicNic is not your usual amdram company – it is a genuine youth theatre company with every role, both on and off stage, being taken by someone in the 16- to 21-year-old age bracket. But don’t let this fool you: for such youth, there is a great breadth of experience and maturity on show.
When the heavy brass overture begins, it is very clear that we are in for an excellent show. Kathy Chalmers, the musical director, has an impressive band of seventeen members, but the sound never overpowers the musical numbers, and the songs are taken at a sensible pace.
The set is fairly basic, but this suits the action. The lighting is nice and colourful, with added flashing signs and strung bulbs, but there seemed to be a few first-night technical challenges with lights appearing at odd times. The costumes, for the most part, fit right in with 1950s New York, and there is plenty of colour!
The four main principals do an excellent job of keeping the action moving along at a good pace, and convincing us about their emotional struggles with their constant life choices. Harriet Taylor as the prim and proper leader of the local Save-a-Soul mission gives a beautiful performance, showing her slowly softening nature as she falls for Sky Masterson. Angus Olding (Sky) gives a self-assured performance as the high-stake gambler/ladies’ man. Emily Pacey is brilliant as Miss Adelaide, giving a lovely aggravated slant to the overly hypochondriac club singer, and sparring perfectly with the hapless Nathan Detriot, played very confidently by Joseph Lukehurst.
For me, the top performances of the evening are given by Oliver Norman and Harry Pudwell as Nicely, Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, whose little comic nuances and strong voices superbly complement each other.
Also worthy of significant praise is the dancing – the hot box girls are very good, but to see the guys give such a strong dance in act 2 is a true highlight.
Just a couple of points that I’d mention for improvement. Do watch out putting anything on stage that is of the wrong era, and if you wear hats a lot during the show, make sure they are placed on the back of your head so the stage lights still pick up your faces instead of having them cast in shadow.
Overall, though, an excellent, high-calibre production – and if this is what 16-21 year olds can do now, then the future of British theatre is looking very strong indeed.
Future performances: 25-27 August at 7.30.