Review: Guys and Dolls, by Jo Swerling, Abe Burrows, Frank Loesser, Eastern Edge Theatre Company, Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe until January 28

Connie Lamb as Sarah Brown and Sam Brown as Sky Masterson in Eastern Edge Theatre Company's producti

Connie Lamb as Sarah Brown and Sam Brown as Sky Masterson in Eastern Edge Theatre Company's production of Guys and Dolls at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion. Photo: Peter Ling - Credit: Archant

Guys and Dolls is one of the masterpieces of musical theatre. It is a wonderful, atmospheric show cram-packed with quirky characters who get to sing of the most memorable, witty songs that Broadway has ever come up with.

Will Mugford as Nicely Nicely Johnson and Harry Planck as Benny Southstreet in Eastern Edge Theatre

Will Mugford as Nicely Nicely Johnson and Harry Planck as Benny Southstreet in Eastern Edge Theatre Company's production of Guys and Dolls at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion. Photo: Peter Ling - Credit: Archant

Based on a collection of short stories by writer Damon Runyon, it’s an affectionate love letter to the rogues and small-time gamblers that inhabited the back alleys around Broadway in New York during the 1920s and 30s.

It’s a show that has to have pace and personality and you have to applaud the vision and ambition of a young company like Eastern Edge wanting to tackle a classic as complex as this. Aged between 16-23, the large company displayed a lot promise and on opening night they displayed an admirable resilience as they battled against a fusillade of technical problems, not the least a barrage of booms, pops, screeches and drop-outs from a wayward sound system.

Nevertheless, there were some wonderful stand-out performances and the songs were delivered with aplomb and it’s clear that artistic director Charlie Pitman has gathered together a formidable band of young talent.

The standout performances came from Sam Brown, who gave an assured performance as Sky Masterson, Jordan James, had a beautifully weasely take on Nathan Detroit, Nancy Doubledee, made the overly trusting showgirl Miss Adelaide a great delight while Will Mugford as Nicely, Nicely Johnson made sure that ‘Sit Down You’re the Rocking The Boat’ was the standout number of the evening.

Nancy Doubledee as Miss Adelaide in Eastern Edge Theatre Company's production of Guys and Dolls at F

Nancy Doubledee as Miss Adelaide in Eastern Edge Theatre Company's production of Guys and Dolls at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion. Photo: Peter Ling - Credit: Archant

While there was a lot of promise on display, you couldn’t help thinking at times, that perhaps they were slightly overwhelmed by the scale of what they had chosen to take on. There were several instances when their inexperience showed.

The pace of the show was sluggish – the great songs needed some extra zip, the tempo needed to be picked up, and there was a lack of character in the dances. The show just stopped for a dance routine to be performed when it should have been integrated into the action. When the Hot Box Girls are performing their floor show the guys need to be reacting rather than just sitting there watching. While in the Cuba numbers when there was greater opportunity to get some laughs and character details out of the dance numbers.

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It’s an encouraging start for a new company and I look forward to seeing what they do next. I have no doubt that we will be seeing many of the young cast on the professional stage in time. Charlie Pitman and the Eastern Edge team deserve a lot of credit for taking on a challenge like this and have a diverse season lined up. I am sure they have learned a lot from this opening show and will become increasingly adept at meeting the technical demands of complex shows.

Andrew Clarke

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