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Guys and Dolls (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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I have seen youth productions of Guys and Dolls before but Stage Experience’s version at the Palace Theatre has to be the best, evidenced by the standing ovation at the end.

It is incredible that, thanks to the expert direction of David McNeill that 100 young people aged 10-21 have come up with such a great show in just 10 days.

The Frank Loesser musical tiself , a hit since 1950, has never lost its appeal and you can see why. Who can resist songs such as “Luck be a Lady Tonight” performed by the male chorus or “Sit Down You’re Rockin the Boat” led by 19-year-old Liam Dodd as a charismatic Nicely-Nicely Johnson and, of course, the romantic “I’ve Never Been In Love Before”  by 17-year-olds Ben Davies and Rebecca Lake as the opposites attract couple -Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown.

That song comes about after the unlikely coupling of bad boy Sky and Salvationist Sarah because of a bet. No-one thought they would get on let alone spend a romantic dinner in, of all places, Cuba! Even in uniform, Sarah has a trim figure. In a great scene when she gets drunk, she reveals her true, sensual self.

The other lead couple are Nathan Detroit, who runs an illegal dice game, and his fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide. Mark Bayliss (19) and Mollie Melia-Redgrave (17) are well cast in their roles. I especially like Mollie’s Miss Adelaide, a Marilyn Monroe look-alike with a tweety pie voice. Her sensational nightclub appearances and raunchy dancing show true star quality. It’s hard to fathom why Nathan doesn’t marry his doll before the other guys beat him to it!

Thomas Mills, who is only 12, stands out as Harry the Horse as he has great stage presence and puts meaning into every word. I like the way he says: “I don’t wish to waste no evening in a hallelujah joint!”

Choreographer, Geoff Steers ensures the night club scenes are imaginatively danced especially in the second half when Adelaide is lowered from the roof for “Take Back Your Mink”

The young cast throw themselves with vigour into this all singing, all dancing performance and maintain reasonably accurate New York accents. Even the band consists of talented young performers.

Highly recommended!

- Julia Taylor


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