Musicality do “Guys and Dolls” @ The Sandfield Theatre

From beginning to end, Musicality’s performance of ‘Guys and Dolls’ treated its audience to an amazing show of excellently timed comedy, brilliantly performed choreography, and incredible singing that proved just how much talent our university has. The performance was perfectly executed, from the amazing band to the beautiful costumes. The attention given to every detail allowed the show to flow effortlessly and every actor on stage, speaking or not, gave everything to their role.

The charge of acting, singing, dancing as well as perfecting the precise timing needed for producing comical moments was undertaken by all involved. They did not disappoint and the dedication and enthusiasm shown by every single cast member was the true forte of this show. Whether they were a street cleaner, tramp, gambler or dancer, each person gave their all to their role, not letting their act drop for a second.

The actors’ comic timing shows how hard the crew and cast have worked on this show and over and over again they succeeded in causing the audience to explode in laughter. Some outstanding performances were given by Tim Watkins and Douggie McMeekin, the latter delivering a brilliant portrayal of the bumbling ‘Nicely Nicely Johnson’, as well as the Salvation Army, who managed to be hilarious merely walking across the stage. There were also unexpected moments of comedy from Ben Cave as Lt Brannigan whose dark humour gave an edge to this cheerful show.

The show’s humour was offset by the relationships portrayed by the leading couples. James Lewis and Maddie Gradwell, as the gambler Sky Masterson and the virtuous Sister Sarah, handled expertly the hard task of portraying the tenderness and fragility of love at first sight without being overindulgent or soppy. Gemma Lien and Weston Twardowski were perfect as warring couple Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide and created some genuinely outstanding moments with their brilliant chemistry and proficient acting skills.

In such a small stage choreographing must have proved a challenge but Nicola Bracewell did not disappoint. Every piece was excellently though out and executed and we were treated to some really excellent dance routines, including a tap sequence performed exceptionally by the Hot Box Dancers. It was clear an enormous amount of effort had been put in behind the scenes too. The costumes were superbly selected with everyone looking as New York as they sounded.

This show exposed some truly brilliant singers, with all the leads excelling. Rob Orme sang beautifully as Brother Arvide and Laura K Thomson as General Cartwright gave the night’s best performance in ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’.  However no matter the immense skill of those singing this show would have been nothing without the band backstage. Conducted by Musical Director Katherine Tye, the musicians who comprised the band were simply out-standing.

The commitment Director Sam Warren and the Producers Harriet Morgan and James Townend gave to this show was evident throughout and it must be due in part to them that the energy levels of all the cast, even though this was their second show that day, did not even slightly drop. The cast and crew excelled in every way and no one I spoke to could give even the smallest criticism. This performance was exhilarating and incredibly enjoyable, a tribute to the dedication, enthusiasm and talent of everyone that was involved.


Ruth Edwards

ArtsArts Reviews
31 Comments on this post.
  • Choreography-Shmoreography
    21 March 2011 at 17:57
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    While I cannot disagree that the singing and acting were top notch, Musicality, failed dismally to provide choreography to match it’s previous years.

    Many of the number were excessively repeptitive, unimaginative and, in the case of the “strip” number and the salsa routine, completely and utterly terrible.

    • Nicola Bracewell
      21 March 2011 at 22:26
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      Hi I’m Nicola who did the choreography for Guys and Dolls. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy what I did with the show- and that you feel I haven’t lived up to previous years (which with Sophie Tebbutt to follow I would challenge anyone to do!!)

      I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am confident the cast enjoyed performing the dances I created and-for the most part-the audience enjoyed them too. For me, that’s what Musicality is all about!

      PS. Thankyou Ruth for a fantastic review!

      • Choreography-Shmoreography
        21 March 2011 at 23:09
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        Ah Nicola, if shows were judged by how much a cast enjoyed them, most would win Oscars, or Tonys as it were. They are not, they are judged by those who watch them and have a basis in the art form they are commenting on.

  • Anonymous
    21 March 2011 at 21:32
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    It’s interesting how such a mediocre show got such a raving review and yet when there is pure talent shown in the New Theatre, that is what gets trashed. Hmmm

  • James McAndrew
    21 March 2011 at 21:40
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    Props were excellent, as was the lettering on the “There is no peace unto the wicked” sign. Well done Gareth (and Chelsea).

  • richard symonds
    21 March 2011 at 21:50
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    interesting views from anonymous and choreography-shmoreography… bold enough to make those comments, yet you dont fancy writing your real names. how brave. anonymous i recon green would be a good colour on you

  • anonymous
    21 March 2011 at 21:50
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    Why should a positive review on Musicality have anything to do with previous New Theatre shows? Both show talent and have produced fantastic shows, and to try and set them against each other is ridiculous. You are writing as if they are against each other when infact they work together, with many people active in both New Theatre and Musicality.

  • 21 March 2011 at 21:59
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    sounds to me like the first anonymous person is just extremely bitter. Perhaps their acting was described as ‘mediocre’ before.
    Yes, the review is a little over the top, but the show was enjoyable and of a high standard throughout. Probably not ready to grace west end theatres any time soon, but certainly not the ‘repetitive and unimaginative’ show as choreography- shmoreography so elequently stated.

  • Luke Steaggles
    21 March 2011 at 22:32
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    The fairy lights were a little over the top… kept shining in my eyes! I guess that’s why choreo-shmoreo didn’t get a good view of the ‘strip’, I know where you’re coming from, gutting wasn’t it!

  • Victoria Newton
    21 March 2011 at 22:35
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    agree with comment at 21.50. Musicality and New Theatre fully support each other, and your comment is trying to undermine that. Fair enough if you disagree with the review, but to suggest that a a good review for Musicality is in anyway a negative thing for New Theatre is absurd. You should be happy for your fellow New Theatre members who were involved in Guys and Dolls for having received such a lovely review.

  • Choreography-Shmoreography
    21 March 2011 at 22:41
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    I throughly enjoyed the show actually. I was just pointing out how, in comparison with previous years, the choreography instead of being an integral part of the show, let it down. The ballet adage inspired moves of the strip number were completely out of step with the setting of the show as well as the music. The boys were given steps that were often used by girls too. Any choreographer knows that save in exception circumstances, this is a bad idea. And then the salsa number… Musicality, for future reference, call Ballroom and Dance soc next time one of your musicals needs a ballroom number choreographed. The tango last year was a similar fiasco….

  • stick to the subject at hand…
    21 March 2011 at 22:42
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    New Theatre regularly gets praise from Impact, its just that people tend to dwell on the criticism it also receives. Obviously New Theatre isn’t going to get a constant swarm of praise from all over the uni and Impact itself because it produces a play every week. Although some people might like to believe that every NT production deserves utter commendation, this cannot happen on a regular basis. There are instances where NT plays deserve the criticism they receive from Impact, alongside the praise.

    Anyway…New Theatre productions are separate to Musicality’s Guys and Dolls so I don’t understand why its even been brought up here. Everyone I spoke to who saw the show loved it. And whilst it evidently wasn’t a West End production (in a theatre in Lenton with a fraction of the budget, it could hardly compete!), the casts enthusiasm and talent reflected all the hard work that had been put in by the production team. The band was awesome, acting good, dances energetic and well performed, costumes brilliant and eye-catching etc etc etc…

    Why do people have to start picking these reviews apart? They’re meant to be a reflection on things that have happened at uni, not something that becomes subject of debate. Its rather ironic that many of the reviews become more talked about than the shows and plays they’re meant to be drawing attention to……..

  • New Theatre & Musicality person
    21 March 2011 at 23:01
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    ‘Pure talent shown at the New Theatre’? Oh per-lease, let’s not use vom-inducing phrases such as ‘pure talent’ – I’m hoping we’re all sensible people with perspective in abundance.

    Yes the review is OTT. No show can be perfect – not everyone can like any one performance – and of course there were things Musicality could have done better. It’s that kind of attitude of learning-from-mistakes that has made the annual production go from strength to strength each year. Musicality members are always 100% proud of their productions (whether the musical or the central cabarets), and I’m afraid the same cannot be said of everyone who’s done a New Theatre play.

    Then again, to compare Musicality productions with new Theatre fare is frankly pointless. How can you begin to weigh a big Broadway musical with a 30 strong cast and full orchestra against a subtle, gritty two-hander put out by the New Theatre? You can’t. They are totally different animals with totally different merits.

    The fact is, from what I heard and was told, people found a lot to be joyful about from ‘Guys & Dolls’. Meanwhile, after a New Theatre production I was very fortunate to part of, many people told me how it had moved them variously to tears, shock and thought. Both reactions made me, and the similarly hard-working production teams, very happy.

    Long may Musicality and the New Theatre keep doing what they do best. With four sell-out performances for the former, and four NSDF selected shows for the latter, they both appear to be very healthy indeed.

    And to the person that said ‘the tango last year was a similar fiasco’ (presumably rolling their eyes and tutting loudly), don’t let it keep you awake at night.

  • MDV
    21 March 2011 at 23:13
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    Ruth has never written a review for NT, nor is she involved in Musicality. It is ridiculous to accuse her, or Impact, of favouritism when each reviewer writes about their experience, something which is completely subjective.

    Anyone can join the Arts & Culture mailing list; anyone can volunteer to write a review; and if you, whoever you are, take that opportunity, I hope that nobody belittles your opinion like you just have.

    I am completely disheartened and outraged at how many times my contributors’ opinions have been put down and their views ignored this year. It is a huge shame that some students apparently have so little respect for their peers.

    Well done Musicality for what I have heard from many to be an outstanding performance. But lest I be accused of favouritism, congratulations to every society, SRS and committee fo a successful year.

  • Cesar Teixeira
    21 March 2011 at 23:18
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    Have to agree with MDV and so many other sensible opinions on this comment thread.

    Musicality and the New Theatre share an incredible talent pool, and contribute so much to each other. To imply that a positive review for them is somehow a negative one for the new theatre, or vice-versa is unfair and mean.

    Well done Musicality. It was a very good show, tho I do agree with Choreo-Shmoreo.

  • Paddy Clarke (street cleaner)
    22 March 2011 at 00:03
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    Just wanted to ask what Choreography Shmoreography thought about the street cleaner’s heel click at the end….

    • Choreography-Shmoreography
      22 March 2011 at 00:35
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      Great heel click. In fact, all the dancers should be commended for doing a decent job with some substandard choreography. The improvised moments that played to the performers strenghts and abilities were by far the best.

  • Amman Kallumpram
    22 March 2011 at 00:43
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    Ok our dance skills may not have been immaculate as very few of the cast have bag loads of dancing experience, yet despite this, we managed to provide a heck of a lot of intense, creative dancing into this great musical, especially with Havana(samba) and Sit Down. I actually had a friend come to watch who I had done a previous production of Guys and Dolls with,who commended the impressive choreography! It’s all a matter of opinion but we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience, especially the dancing!

  • Sean Jones
    22 March 2011 at 01:12
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    What about that mysterious man who came on smoking at the beginning. What was that all about? What was his story? I want to know more about him!

  • Patrick McChrystal
    22 March 2011 at 12:26
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    I agree with this Sean person on this matter. I would also like to know why one character was obsessed with the carnations and seemed to be the campest straight drunk I have seen in my life???

  • Paddy Clarke (street cleaner)
    22 March 2011 at 14:56
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    Also, why do I have a head shaped like the superbowl…

  • Ben Cave
    22 March 2011 at 15:10
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    Oh Choreo-Shmoreo why must you make your case in anonymity. I cannot held but feel that your criticisms might be better received if a) you didn’t undermine them with nasty personal attacks and b) you let everyone know who you are. If you stood behind your opinions people would, I’m sure, think that you made some decent constructive criticisms.

    I think nicola did a wonderful job particularly considering that musicality is not dance soc or latin and ballroom. As someone who has danced in a few shows before I and anyone else can tell you that the mark of a good choreographer is 50% coming up with good steps and 50% coming up with steps your dancers can perform well. What you appear to miss is that the choreography here was a mixture of the two, tailored to the level of first time dancers in several cases. Better a routine which risks being repetitive than one the dancers cannot execute at all.

    Perhaps you should have the common decency to post your name so that people can talk to you as someone with constructive criticisms to make. Ceaser gave his opinion in his post and no-one is upset by it because he has the courage to stand behind it. Maybe you should do the same …

  • Ed Rooney
    22 March 2011 at 15:20
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    Aside from all this NT/Musicality bull, this is my opinion on the show.

    1. It ran on for too long. 3 hours is a tad self indulgent
    2. There was little direction. It seemed to be coordinated if anything.
    3. Adelaide was excellent.
    4. Douggie was good.
    5. Weston was good.
    6. The choreography was pretty bad apart from rocking the boat at the end. The dice choreography was awful, and the cuban rumba scene – which is a turning point – was sloppy and saved by the barmans hilarious (if ridiculous) accent. It didnt exactly seem like there was any direction, just a vibe – as epitomised by the barman.
    7. Laura Thompson bossed the last scene and barely made the £6.50 value for money.

    Musicality has been going slowly downhill over the last 18 months, and I think anyone who says differently is kidding themselves. I personally think their own egotistical arrogance is embodied by the senior members of their committee.

    • Tommo Fowler
      22 March 2011 at 21:16
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      Out of interest, what exactly has gone downhill in the past 18 months? Fair enough, the main shows have not been as ‘edgy’ as in previous years, but that’s the only difference I can see. The talent of the Society has by no means diminished (as shown by the excellent comments received by judges on ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ over the summer), and I don’t think the last two shows have been any less professionally executed than ‘The Dreaming’ or ‘Into the Woods’. As for the Cabarets, they have certainly become slightly more populist and moved away from evenings comprised strictly of musical theatre. If you are a purist, I can see why you might view this negatively. But with the huge popularity of ‘Glee’, it is eminently understandable. Though Musicality remains dedicated to musical theatre, there is no harm in getting people to recognise the Society’s capability by singing songs they know, for it then increases the audience numbers at the large-scale annual musical (which for Guys & Dolls, you will notice, were incredibly high).

      But to address some of your points specifically:

      The length:
      Which night did you see it? From what I have heard, the first performance or two lacked a bit of pace, but this is not self-indulgent. Gauging the appropriate pace of a show whilst onstage is very difficult, and will often depend on the audience. There were a couple of slumps in the Saturday evening performance, but largely the issue seemed to have been resolved. These ‘off nights’ would not be expected in the West End, but Musicality perform in Lenton. Its members are not trained, and they are not professionals – they are students of completely disparate subjects unified by enjoyment of – and talent for – musical theatre. It is a long play which could have benefited from cuts here and there, but the performance stayed largely true to the original (prolific ad-libbing excepted).

      You think the play was “coordinated if anything”, but of what do you believe directing consists? Of course, in a gritty drama or play with endlessly enigmatic characters, the director of course must have an overarching vision of who the characters are and lead his or her actors to ‘find’ them in their performances. In a musical such as Guys & Dolls, these issues largely do not arise, for many of the characters are (at best) superficial. In any case, directing such a large cast will often boil down to basic crowd control. Having directing ‘The Pajama Game’ for Musicality last year, I know how tough keeping track of each minutiae and each character’s whereabouts or thoughts can be, and I defy you to take on a challenge as great as this – especially when it is your first foray into directing. I was lucky – I was fresh from directing for New Theatre, and had an outstanding Assistant Director to help keep everything in check. Sam did a sublime job on his first directorial effort, and should be immensely proud.

      The Committee:
      This I simply do not understand. What arrogance is this? How is it manifested? By its very nature as an un-auditioned group, there is no ‘cliquey’ hierarchy. The Cabarets and, in particular, the main shows are full of intense camaraderie – whether you’re a main part with many solos or no lines whatsoever. Everyone is valued. Last year’s President, for instance, did not perform in ‘The Dreaming’ or ‘The Pajama Game’, and barely ever allowed herself to stand out in Cabarets. None of this year’s Committee had large parts in Guys & Dolls (indeed, most did not speak and one was not part of the cast), so I am at a loss to know from where this egotism of which you speak comes.

      I will not comment on the choreography, for I have nothing new to add. But Ben is right that it was necessarily tailored to the company’s ability, and one can ask for more than that. Had the cast more dancers, the singing and acting probably would have suffered. It is rare even in professional theatre to find people who can maintain a similarly high standard in all three aspects of performance.

      • Mother hen syndrome
        23 March 2011 at 16:50
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        Move on Tommo

  • Charlotte
    22 March 2011 at 16:12
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    Personally I feel rthat this thread is getting for too personal and taking away from what a review is meant to be: a reflection of the show itself and one person’s account of their experience and what they saw. Ruth obviously enjoyed the show, as did many others. Does it really matter? Musicality is meant to be fun – those involved enjoyed the production and were proud of what they achieved and most who came to watch also enjoyed it.

    If people really wanted to express their views on Guys and Dolls, maybe they should have offered to review in on Impact’s behalf? As for becoming bitchy and personal, these comments aren’t going to achieve anything.

    People need to lighten up re these comments…the street cleaner’s heel clicks were amazing, as was the insanely camp “Sky Masterson’s my favourite”. I suggest Choreography-Schmoreography proposes the musical next year and takes part as ‘Choreographer’, I’ll come and watch, expecting great things…

  • bill
    22 March 2011 at 17:27
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    Gee Whiz. Surprised to read the comments from some contributors. Saw the show twice. Had to remind myself often that it was a Uni production. Thought it was brilliant. Any show that gets an audience on it’s feet demanding an encore has earned the praise given in the review. Well done to everyone involved in the show. Can we have more please.

  • Paddy Clarke (street cleaner)
    22 March 2011 at 17:35
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    Regarding the last night of the show, anyone know what a muncher is…?

  • tourist
    22 March 2011 at 18:16
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    think its similar to a welcher…

  • muncher
    23 March 2011 at 23:54
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    never seen someone nail anything as hard as Orme nail that epic scene….

  • Jim
    25 March 2011 at 00:21
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    please keep arguing. I love this shit. in particular church house’s unbelievably self righteous, arrogant and hypocritical statements. it is the bomb.

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