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Guys and Dolls as presented by Entr’acte

Guys and Dolls as presented by Entr’acte

Date of Adjudicated Performance: Saturday 2nd March 2024.

Entr’acte’s biggest achievement, with their production of the ever-popular Guys and Dolls, was to give the show a fresh coat of paint without losing sight of the original masterpiece. The show was a kind of fusion of cartoon characterization and cabaret stylization, on the one hand, employing musical and comical devices to accentuate comedic business, and on the other, presenting the show on a cabaret stage, opting for minimal scenery, a great lighting plot and a cracking pace that was rarely interrupted.

The lighting design for this production was very good, as indeed, it needed to be, given the lack of a structured set. In its place, we were given three rows of cabaret lighting that were very well-used, a New York sky-line behind an on-stage orchestra, which was also well-lit,

and very good area lighting for the various scenes, always with appropriate back or side lighting to add atmosphere and ambiance. The musical numbers were particularly well-lit, and The Crapshooters Ballet was a work of art. Isolated spotlights were used effectively to introduce each character to the story in a frozen moment, with an accompanying musical trill. Stage manager, Kate Canavan, was probably enjoying tea and biscuits for most of the show, as the cast themselves seemed responsible for moving all the props and furniture, but I do appreciate that such slick operations require excellent organization skills in advance of the performance. Even against a full orchestra, the sound balance was pretty perfect with very good cueing of the radio mics, and good sound effects.

The biggest benefit of Director, Niamh McGowan’s decision to opt for this cabaret style, was pace, in a show that never faltered in its continuity, with scene after scene running seamlessly together with only the use of furniture and a change of lighting to signify the altered locations. The furniture was invariably choreographed into place by members of the cast with much precision. Did I miss the scenery? Well, perhaps a little, based on my own perception that when Damon Runyon paints a picture, (in his writing) it’s about characters and their environment. However, it could be said that this style does incline one to focus more sharply on the characters, and in paying tribute to Runyon, Niamh’s attention to individual characterizations was excellent. Indeed, I was much impressed that everyone on-stage seemed to have an individual identity; for example, each member of the Mission band had very distinct character traits.

The touches that made a great impact by being unique and unexpected were the sound effects, nicely orchestrated, that accompanied much of the comedic business, most notably, the rolling of the dice in the Crapshooters scene, which was pure cartoon in nature and execution, and the little vignettes of the flights to and from Havana, adding great comedy and effectively covering the transition from one location to another.

This cabaret style of production also gave us the benefit of enjoying a full 20-piece orchestra, on-stage, for the entire show, nesting unobtrusively below a good background of a New York skyline. And what an orchestra! Rich, melodic strings, a rasping and vibrant brass section and the laid-back, rhythmic jazz and swing styles of the reeds, creating a well-balanced,

beautifully controlled and consistently enchanting accompaniment to the show. Musical Director, Róisín Heenan, not only conducted the players with aplomb, but had also done

excellent work on arranging and adding a plethora of sound effects to accompany the various quirky touches that this production threw up. I also enjoyed the strolling players in Havana and in the Mission Band. Róisín had also vocally prepared the company to produce quality in their harmony, their diction and their strong delivery of their music.

Things looked all proper and correct in the Wardrobe department. Well-fitted suits or jackets and trousers for the crapshooters, and good attention to footwear as well. The ladies had appropriate styles, from their general day dresses to the traditional uniforms for the Mission Band. However, having embraced the overall Cabaret style of the production, I’m not sure that ‘all proper and correct’ was the best option in costuming. I can’t fault the era-appropriate accuracy of the styles on display, but I did feel that Bushel and a Peck could have had more Razzle, Take Back Your Mink could have had more Dazzle and Havana could have been much more flamboyant and exaggerated. It was almost as if you gave yourself a license to go to extremes, but then reined-in the very scenes where you could have maximized the Cabaret effect. That said, the Hot-Box costumes were more than adequate, and Havana did have a holiday feel to it. Perhaps a matching set of fur-stoles would have looked better than the random selection that was used for Take Back Your Mink. Very good attention was given to wigs and hairstyles, and there was a good noticeable difference between the plain Jane make up of the Mission girls and the flashier make-up of the Dolls and Dancers. Props for the show were very good, except for a rather tatty newspaper stand in the final scene.

In the role of Sky Masterson, Morgan Moore had a cool, cavalier attitude to risk, and a reluctant yet moveable attitude to romance, falling in love almost by accident with Miss Sarah Brown. His character was strong and well-defined, even if the hands constantly in the pockets irked me a little. Vocally, at his most tender, there was a hint of Michael Bublé about his delivery, while his bigger numbers could perhaps have been more robust, but there was no doubting his pitch, which was spot on.

As Sarah Brown, Caoilfhionn Ní Dhúlaing acted the role to perfection, believably naïve and insecure in her early scenes with Sky, devout without piety in her religious fervour and deliciously embracing her hitherto subdued Joie de Vivre when she’d had a few Bacardis. Every scene was thoughtful and well-balanced. Vocally, she was at her best in her more upbeat numbers, where her voice sounded relaxed and comfortable, while the slower romantic soprano pieces occasionally seemed slightly forced, despite being nicely in tune.

Michael Bergin played Nathan Detroit with a wonderful sense of physical comedy. His legs, his arms, his torso and his face all seemed to have different controls, none of which seemed to be connected, such were his contortions of discomfort in presenting his character as a fragile man, living on the edge of his nerves. After first fearing he might have some unfortunate affliction, I quickly realized that it was all deliberate, and highly comical. His facial reactions, particularly, were excellent, and his timing was top-notch in this wonderful performance. He could sing too.

As his long-suffering fiancé, Adelaide, Louise O’Connor gave an assured comedic performance, combined with a sincere portrayal of low-self-esteem, but ultimately a presence that refused to go unrecognized. Her vocal delivery was strong, and she fronted the Hot-Box numbers with confidence and charisma. Adelaide’s Lament show-cased all her attributes.

A vocally strong delivery of Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat was the high-point of Daniel Whelan’s performance as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. This performer does not lack confidence and may even have been a tad too ‘cool’ in the role, but that went hand in hand with great vocal and physical comedy. He was particularly good alongside Cian Gallagher, who was

absolutely perfect as Benny Southstreet. His “I’m alright!” after he gave testimony in the Mission scene, epitomized perfect delivery, perfect tone and perfect facial reaction. His performance throughout was strong, compelling and very in-character, accompanied by a great vocal quality.

Gary Finnegan immersed himself into the character of East-Cicero thug, Big Jule, displaying a great wealth of comedic ability and a fine sense of rhythm. His antics during the crap game were splendidly choreographed and delivered.

Equally impressive was Colm Lombard, who gave a comically sinister interpretation of Harry the Horse. Again, in the Mission scene, his timing was excellent.

Damien Sweeney added good vocal quality to the Fugue For Tinhorns, singing the role of Rusty Charlie, while he showed great song and dance ability throughout the show. Stephen Grimes was a blustering Lieut Brannigan, very capably giving the NYPD a bad name through his ineptitude in dealing with the local miscreants.

Casting Arvide Abernathy as Sarah’s ‘Aunt’, rather than her Uncle or Grandfather, was a departure that paid off very nicely, affording Niamh Carroll the opportunity to display tender acting and a beautifully melodic delivery of More I Cannot Wish You.

Catherine Fox combined the severity of a Mission General with a comical thrill at being flirted with, to create a well-balanced role as Matilda B. Cartright, and within the ranks of the Mission band, there were convincing and comical characterizations from Claire O’Brien as Martha, Muirne Shaw as Agatha, Eoghan Funge as Calvin and from Aisling Bonner, Aideen Carew and Caoimhe Bermingham.

Joe Jennings as Angie the Ox, Maurice Wright as Joey Biltmore, Dean Mulraney as the MC of the HotBox, Maurice Treacy as the Waiter and Peter Richardson as the Drunk, all made significant contributions to the show.

Alice O’Loughlin-Kennedy deserves special mention for making a complete ‘ass’ of herself as Mimi!

The Crapshooters, the Hot-Box Girls and the general population who comprised the chorus were wonderful as an ensemble, while assuming individual identities, whether as airline staff, shoppers, gamblers or Cuban party-goers. They performed with confidence and cohesion at all times, and there was never any question about their vocal abilities, producing super harmonies and bundles of vocal energy. Their dance and movement were extremely energetic and very well-executed. And talking of dancing…

The well-thought out and imaginative creativity of Choreographer, Leah Meagher, was evident in every number in the show, from a well-devised opening sequence, which was acted as well as it was danced, to the glamour and quirkiness of the Hot Box Dancers, to the amusing and animated Guys and Dolls and Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat. Brilliant patterning and positioning went into the Havana routine to keep it vibrant and racy, but it was the Crapshooters Ballet that brought the house down, not only superbly choreographed, but equally superb in execution.

Congratulations to all involved for taking a tried and tested traditional show and putting your own stamp on it. It is easy to appreciate the thought that went all aspects of the show, making it a visual, technical and talent-laden triumph of musical achievement. Thank you for such a great night of entertainment.

Peter Kennedy

Gilbert Adjudicator 2023 / 2024

Some Photos kindly shared by the society - Photographer - Ciarán MacChoncarraige


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