Tag Archives: Abe Burrows

REVIEW: Guys and Dolls – Edinburgh Playhouse

So successful is Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2014 production of Guys and Dolls, that not only has it made the transfer to the West End but has also spawned a comprehensive national tour. Sad to say, however, it appears to have lost some of its five-star sparkle in transit.

An amalgamation of three of Damon Runyon’s Broadway fables; The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, Pick the Winner and Blood Pressure: shifty, small-time crook Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield), in need of money to host ‘the oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York’, bets charismatic cool-cat and inveterate gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman), that Masterson can’t get frosty missionary Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) from the Save-A-Soul Mission, to go with him to Havana on a date. A merry band of misfits help colour the tall tale, from eternally engaged, fourteen years a fiancée Miss Adelaide (Louise Dearman), to local low-lives Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Harry the Horse.

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The witty words of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows are regarded as among the funniest in the musical theatre canon and they remain intact in Gordon Greenberg’s revival. However, the pace and direction of Greenberg’s production lacks the spark required to bring Runyon’s stories fully to life, playing like a poorly connected series of stand-alone scenes rather than a flowing whole.

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None of the faults of the production can be blamed on the cast, with West End leads Louise Dearman, Anna O’Byrne, and Richard Fleeshman and seasoned actor Maxwell Caulfield at the helm, then quality is assured. Dearman turns in an especially effective turn as a Lucille Ball-like Miss Adelaide, managing to balance the humour and pathos brilliantly and Fleeshman conveys the easy charm and charisma of Masterson with aplomb. The supporting cast too is of the highest quality.

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Peter McKintosh’s set design is essentially simple, an arc of lightbulb-ringed adverts and a series of roll-on-roll-off accents, which only really brings the vivid world of New York alive when fully lit. The choreography of Cuban ballet superstar Carlos Acosta and West End stalwart Andrew Wright has been placed firmly centre stage, with extended dance sequences throughout. The duo’s work is especially effective in the ballet-inspired crap game in the sewers with its athletic, inventive sequences and a nod to Acosta’s ballet background in the Swan Lake line up.

With such a top-notch cast and first-rate creative team, it’s hard to see how this could go wrong, but Greenberg’s production falls flat in too many places that if fails to do full justice to the stellar cast and this musical theatre classic. Ultimately unsatisfying.

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

Images: Johan Persson

REVIEW: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – Eastwood Park Theatre

How to Suceed in Business eastwood park6Glasgow Music Theatre really are a class apart: a happy hybrid of professional and trained performers and talented amateurs, each production team, from creative to performer, is built from scratch with the best talent on offer for each show – and boy does it show.

How to Suceed in Business eastwood park2It’s hard to overstate the quality of GMT’s output: their fearless artistic choices and innovative ideas are supported by excellent execution. Their latest offering is the little seen How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert’s take on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 satirical self-help book of the same name. Described in the publicity material as Guys and Dolls meets Mad Men it has familiar echoes of both.

How to Suceed in Business eastwood park3It’s the early 60’s, armed with a ‘How to’ book, a bright, young window cleaner J. Pierrepont Finch, that’s F.I.N.C.H. as he likes to remind us, embarks on an ambitious climb to the top of the corporate ladder. With much manipulation and mischief he manages to get to the top of the tree with alarming speed. Genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and full of innocent charm, this is a joyous piece of escapist entertainment bordering on the surreally silly at times. With tunes such as “A Secretary is not a Toy”, “Brotherhood of Man” and the hysterical “Old Ivy” it’s impossible not to be thoroughly charmed by the whole endeavour. The action cracks along at great speed and there’s so much to catch the eye that the audience’s attention never wavers.

How to Suceed in Business eastwood park4In a cast so talented it seems churlish to single out any particular performers for praise but there are some real stand-outs here: Neil Campbell as our (anti) hero Finch, Steven Dalziel (Bud Frump) and Johnny Collins (J.B. Biggley) are supremely talented and light up the stage at every entrance. The only weak link in the chain is Kelly Johnston as love-interest Rosemary Pilkington who struggles with keeping to the melody at times and has an air of immaturity about her performance, unfortunately highlighted by the supreme quality of the rest of the main cast and ensemble.

How to Suceed in Business eastwood park5Worth noting too, is Marion Baird’s innovative choreography, clearly evoking the original (uncredited) work by Bob Fosse, it is a joy to watch and beautifully executed by the cast.

This is a real treat – innocent, exuberant, good old-fashioned fun for all.

How to suceed 6 At Eastwood Park until Sat 1 Feb.

For more information about GMT visit: www.glasgowmusictheatre.co.uk

Photography by Abbie Mead and Colin Johnston