Walking into the BSR, all that greeted the audience was a silhouette of a city skyline on a plain white sheet. The empty stage seemed to yearn for colour, for the hustle and bustle of New York streets. Where was the noise, the chaos, the yellow cabs? This was Guys and Dolls, right? However, the simplicity of the stage did not foreshadow what was to unfold. The set, it soon became clear, was mere respite from the vibrancy of the costumes, music, and of course actors.
Guys and Dolls has delighted audiences since its premiere on Broadway in 1950, and SCC Drama’s production was no exception. Under the skilful stage direction of Ronan Swift and Tristan Clarke, a handsome collection of put-together, well-dressed, shirt-tucked-in boarding school students were transformed into a ragtag band of petty innercity criminals. Fedoras and Brooklyn accents abounded. The actors pulled off 1940s gangsters well, led by Harry Oke-Osanyintula and Alex Russell as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet respectively. Playing off each other’s energy, the pair elevated each scene with their vigour and near Broadway-esque musicality.
It seemed to be the songs, directed by musical producer Geraldine Malone Brady, which really captured the audience’s heart. Tunes like ‘Sue Me’ and ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’ echoed through St Columba’s halls for days. A particular favourite was ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before’, a duet between the gambler Sky Masterson, played by Max Hillery, and Mission Leader Sarah Brown, played by Robyn Brady. It wasn’t only the romance of the scene, which would’ve made the strongest of men go ‘aww’, it was also the execution of the notes and compatibility of their voices that really struck. It sounded beautiful, with just a touch of rawness that added to the sentiment of the scene.
Far from the nervous uncertainty of blossoming love was the fourteen year-old engagement of Nathan Detroit, played by MJ McCullough, and Miss Adelaide, played by Ciana Taylor. They were the picture of domestic discord. The ‘reluctant boyfriend trying to appease his eager girlfriend without actually doing what she wants’ thing was down pat. Shrill, nasal, and yet endearing, Ciana Taylor’s portrayal of the eccentrically desperate Miss Adelaide earned her the deserved spot of standout performer of the production.
It doesn’t matter how it’s dressed up. It could be a white sheet or an entire replica of 42nd Street. However one chooses to do it, Guys and Dolls is good pure entertainment. Witty dialogue, droll characterization, and Big Jule from Chicago (James O’Connor) never fail. The right amount of opportune one-liners and dance numbers makes any play enjoyable, it’s a straight fact. Since 1950, Guys and Dolls has been a great way to spend a Saturday night and it sure is now.