Broadway Baby Review of Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls
Inverleith Church Hall

Guys and Dolls is based on the well known Hollywood film and stage musical. The storyline is set in the 1940’s around a couple of gamblers who are involved in the oldest permanent floating craps game in New York City. Nathan Detroit, who is hosting the game, is in desperate need of $1,000 and makes a bet with Sky Masterson that Sky cannot make a particular girl fall for him. Sky bets that whoever it is, he will be able to take her to Havana for dinner the next day. Nathan chooses Sara, who is running the local Mission. Will Sky succeed or will Sara be able to resist his charms? Will Sara manage to find enough sinners to be able to keep her Mission going?

The Forth Children’s Theatre has a long successful history of bringing productions to Edinburgh. Their staging is always spectacular but is significantly different every year as they develop new ways of using Inverleith Church Hall. For Jekyll & Hyde the stage was placed at the end of the hall. Last year, for Ragtime, it was in the middle but for Guys And Dolls it’s set along the length of the hall. This has the effect of making it more intimate; nobody is more than a few rows from the stage. But it also allows the action to move from side to side as well as backwards and forwards. At times there are multiple scenes taking place at once.

The production moves along very quickly, with barely a pause for breath. It’s quite long, at over two and a half hours including an interval, but it never drags for a moment.

The age range of the children in the company means that some of the performers are fully grown while others are still very small. The quality of the acting is so high that this makes no difference at all.

Singing and dancing are excellent throughout, particularly in some of the large ensemble numbers which made full use of the large stage, such as ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight’ and ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat’.

Definitely not to be missed.

Broadway Baby review of Ragtime

Excellent Musical About Racism And Civil Rights

Ragtime is a musical set in the USA in the early years of the 20th Century, when racism was more blatant than it is today and civil rights movements were barely under way. Initially we are introduced to a suburban New York family that lives in a totally white area. The family’s lives get turned upside down when an abandoned black child is found on their property. The police find a woman, Sarah, nearby and she is confirmed to be the child’s mother. Both Sarah and her child are allowed to stay with the family temporarily.

Sarah’s former boyfriend and the baby’s father, piano player Coalhouse Walker, comes to find Sarah and eventually tracks her down. She refuses to see him but he says he will come back once a week until she agrees to marry him. As he returns again and again he becomes friendly with the family, playing their piano for them. Eventually Sarah agrees to marry him.

He and Sarah go out in his new car but some racist firemen harass him. They damage his car and Coalhouse tries, without success, to force the authorities to get them to fix it. Sarah tries to speak to the President about it but is killed by the police, who think she has a weapon. Coalhouse then gives up on peaceful means and turns to violence, shooting to death three firemen. Eventually, he is persuaded to surrender to the police and promised a fair trial but is shot in cold blood.

Coalhouse is shown as an intriguing and complicated character, not as a flawless saint. His position is contrasted with that of Booker T. Washington, a black leader of the time, who advocated slow progress without violence so as not to frighten the whites. Whose approach was correct?

This is a tremendously ambitious undertaking for the Forth Children’s Theatre and is a great success. The stage is set in the middle of the hall with the audience on both sides, which must have made the choreography extremely difficult, particularly with such a large cast, but it works perfectly. The singing is, in most cases, top quality even from the youngest performers. An excellent production.