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27 April 2012


Public Hall, Witham
Friday 27th April 2012

With a number of successful revivals both in the West End and Broadway, as well as a classic film, since its 1951 original production, this vintage Loesser musical with its depiction of the sinners of Broadway and Miss Sarah Brown's Mission to save their souls, has captured the imaginations of audiences for half a century.  

WAOS did a more than decent job with the familiar show, directed by Jacqui Tear, MD'd by Geoff Osborne, generally grasping the New Yorker accents well. 

The modest stage at the Public Hall did feel overcrowded in some of the group numbers, with the opening scene not quite choreographed enough to avoid obscured bunches of action, although the stylised colours in the costumes looked great.  The choice of including an ultraviolet Luck Be a Lady routine unfortunately did not come off, with the stage not dark enough or the UV not bright enough to obtain the desired look.  The chorus of Hot Box girls were, however, excellent - choreographed by Lindsay Bonsor - consistently glamorous and voluptuous, exuding confidence in their risque costumes.

There were a couple of stand-out performances from the principles, and it was the "Dolls" who stole the show. 

Sergeant Sarah Brown was played by the operatic Corinna Wilson.  With a classic style that is rarely seen in modern musical theatre, let alone amateur musical theatre, her beautiful and gutsy soprano could be picked out amongst the entire cast.  I doubt whether Corinna would be suited to a more modern, character-based role - say, Elphaba in Wicked, or Elle in Legally Blonde - but in this casting she certainly shone.

The consummate Deborah Anderson took on the iconic role of Miss Adelaide, complete with a wonderfully bunged up nose, and succeeded in stealing the comic crown for this production with her charming, secure performance.

My favourite piece however was the beautifully heartfelt "More I Cannot Wish You", sung in Act Two by Arvide Abernathy (Nicholas Clough).  A skillful voice and ardent delivery made for a particularly moving number. 

Among the supporting cast, kudos must be given to Jeff Babbs as The Drunk who probably saw the most stage-time despite his lack of dialogue, and was admirably never for a moment out of character - so much so he stole my attention completely in some of the slower scenes.  A confidently animated Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stewart Adkins) was a delight throughout, with an exuberance and energy that belied his large frame.

There were some sections of WAOS' Guys & Dolls which lacked the drive to whip the audience up to the energetic heights of a bustling 1950s Broadway.  A more assured, pacy delivery by some of the cast would have better contrasted with the slower moments, giving the light and shade that could have heightened the overall success of the production and the audience's delight in the denouement.

That being said however, as this is a long-established society of high standards, with a talented pool of members, who all clearly work very hard.  Well produced amateur musical theatre is safe in their hands. 

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