From 3rd-5th November, large audiences enjoyed the RSD Dramatic Society’s production of the classic musical, Guys and Dolls. They were transported back to the Depression era of the 1930s in New York City, where illicit gamblers are trying to make a fast buck and Christian missionaries are trying to save them from their sins. This was our first musical since 2018 (Sister Act) and our first big production since 2019 (Alice in Wonderland) so we had lots of newcomers to the stage and also behind the scenes in the crew.
Unusually, the show has 4 lead characters, and it is their interwoven story which drives the narrative and provides the platform for the great songs. Nathan Detroit, played by Alex Talbot, is a dice game fixer looking for venues to hold his illegal game; while Miss Adelaide, played by Siena Fenton, is a headline singer at the Hot Box Club who, after 14 years of engagement to Nathan, is desperate to finally tie the knot. Sky Masterson is the high rolling gambler who always bets big, played by Ben Cooper; while Sergeant Sarah Brown, played by Grace Wylie on Thursday and Friday nights and Rebekah Needham on Saturday night, is a missionary desperate to save sinners’ souls. When Nathan Detroit bets Sky Masterson $1,000 that Sky won’t be able to persuade Sergeant Sarah to fly to Cuba with him for dinner, the drama unfolds.
Central to the action is the ‘will they, won’t they?’ nature of the characters’ relationships. Will Nathan win his bet with Sky and have the funds to host his illegal dice game; and will Adelaide forgive him if she finds out what he’s doing? After 14 years, will they ever get married? Will Sky persuade Sarah to fly to Havana in return for bringing gambling sinners like himself to the Mission; and will Sarah go along to save the Mission from closure or is she falling in love with Sky and he falling for her? How will these guys and dolls end up?
These four roles are huge and each of our performers carried them off brilliantly. Their singing was excellent and their acting, especially in the romantic and comic moments central to the story, were a real delight for the audience. They all had a huge amount of time on stage and so many lines and songs to learn and deliver, plus a New York accent to keep up, even when singing. It is a real credit to them all that they sustained such high performance levels across all three nights. These are performances that will live long in the memory!
Other principal characters supported them brilliantly. Audience favourites for their antics on stage were Nathan’s sidekicks, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, played by Jessica Wylie, and Benny Southstreet, played by Jamie Creaney. Their chemistry as a double act was terrific, they sang so well, and the slapstick comedy of their performances alongside their singing and dancing had the audience eating out of their hand. Vilius Slajus, as gambling gangster Big Jule, provided the show’s menace alongside Joe Thompson’s character, Harry the Horse, flush with money from collecting the reward on his outlaw father. In contrast, Joshua Thompson’s sweet grandfather figure helped Sarah to deal with her rollercoaster of emotions as she tries to figure out if Sky is the guy for her. All of these characters had crucial dialogue which moved the story along with varying dynamics; and they all had to sing and dance as well. Reese McCaughey as police officer Lieutenant Brannigan and Chloe McCollum as General Cartwright, leader of the Mission, provided the moral backbone of the show, chasing the gamblers to shut down their illegal dice game or to save them from sin. Collectively, the supporting characters displayed a great balance in the different aspects of their performances and swept the audience along in the story.
The talented principal roles were well supported by an equally talented group of chorus members and dancers who graced the stage at each performance with an air of confidence, enthusiasm and dedication, enhancing many of the toe-tapping, show-stopping numbers. I have to give a special mention at this point to the three teachers, Mr Kerr, Mr Chambers and Mr Moore, for joining the cast as gamblers and opening the show in song. The guys were there for Nathan and Sky singing ‘The Oldest Established’ and ‘Luck Be a Lady’ while the dolls helped Miss Adelaide perform ‘A Bushel and a Peck’ and ‘Take Back Your Mink’. By the end, the whole cast was in the Mission Hall to belt out ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ led by Nicely Nicely. They were backed up by a superb band, which included RSD teachers and pupils, music tutors and RSD past-pupils. You won’t be surprised to learn that our two couples end up ‘happily ever after’ as they agree to get married and the guys leave gambling behind them.
The gifted cast were guided by Mr Cuddy (Producer and Musical Director), Mr McDowell (Director), Ms Clarke (Assistant Musical Director), Ms Anderson (Assistant Producer) and Mrs Trouton (Assistant Director). The quality of acting, singing and dancing were superb, they made the whole production come alive and drew in the audience. As always, a large group of staff and pupils volunteered their efforts in other equally important parts of the production, such as the Art and DT Depts’ set design and construction adding hugely to the atmosphere, and the backstage crew, led by Genna Gilpin, providing lots of slick scene changes. The sound and lighting team produced high quality effects and ran superb production value throughout, while Mrs McGurk and Ms McCombe’s hair and makeup team and Mrs Kerr and Mrs Chamber’s costume team made each character on stage look the part. Finally, the programme team and staff/pupils organising refreshments at the interval on each night added to the audience’s experience.
No surprise that each night was a huge success, with continual applause and standing ovations – all well deserved by cast and crew. It’s safe to say that audience left the performance feeling uplifted by the witty and intriguing storyline and singing along to their favourite tunes.
After the show, school receives cards, emails and social media posts from audience members, congratulating the cast and crew. A few examples:
“I’m sending this short email to say how much we enjoyed the school performance of Guys and Dolls on Friday evening! It was absolutely brilliant from start to finish. Just outstanding talent throughout!”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Guys and Dolls on Saturday night. Each and every one of the cast involved did an excellent job. It was so entertaining from start to finish. The whole performance was a credit to all the staff and backstage crew involved.”
“RSD’s production of Guys and Dolls was not a school show…it was like being at a West End performance! It was truly brilliant in every way.”
We hope lots of our younger students are inspired to become part of it all next time!