There are many Broadway musicals that are considered to be theatre staples. Most of which I have never seen. One such production is Guys & Dolls. The closest I ever came to seeing a version of this show was back in high school when my school was putting on a production of it. I never got the chance to see it then, but I was given a chance to make up for it with a new production by Antipodes Theatre Company at Melbourne’s Chapel off Chapel.
Based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon, with original book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, and music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, Guys & Dolls is set in 1920 New York when gamblers and gangsters ruled the city. Nathan Detroit (Shannon Foley) is trying to find a location for his infamous Craps Game. But with the law breathing down his neck and his fiancé Miss Adelaide (Willow Sizer) disapproving of his underground antics, Detroit finds himself gambling much more than he ever anticipated.
Having never seen the show before, I had no idea what to expect. Upon entering the theatre, it was almost like walking straight into a NYC Speak Easy. Cast were wandering around on stage, playing music, drinking at the bar and there was even a card game going on. There were three cabaret style tables on the stage that for those lucky enough to be seated right near the action. Personally, I preferred sitting up in the regular seats as it gave me the best view of the whole stage.
It is not often that a show brings you into the story so quickly, but this production did so with ease. The staging and costuming by Bianca Pardo made the perfect first impression, this accompanied by the band, clearly visible at the rear of the stage had me instantly captivated.
As the audience finally got settled, the show began. Opening with “Fugue for Tinhorns” with a wonderful performance by Nicely Nicely Johnson, Rusty Charlie, and Benny Southstreet (Bugs Baschera, Jahla Black, and Angelo Vasilakakos, respectively). I knew right away that the musical capability of this production was not going to let me down. This was backed up by an angelic vocal performance by Maddison Coleman as Sarah Brown and Javon King as Sky Masterson in “I’ll Know”.
Shannon Foley as Nathan Detroit and Willow Sizer as Miss Adelaide both put on brilliant performances in their respective roles. Their chemistry as a couple in a long-term relationship is believable and they have the vocal performances to match with a brilliant number “Sue Me”. A number that is quickly followed by one of the only songs that I recognise from the production, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” by Bugs Baschera. They’re so much fun to watch on stage and I thoroughly enjoyed they’re rendition of this song.
There is so much to enjoy about Antipodes Theatre Company’s production of Guys & Dolls. From the diverse stellar cast, fantastic staging and musical numbers to the interactive nature of the show. Even at intermission, returning to my seat, the cast called out my beard and looks. Likening me to a Canadian Lumberjack that just had me laughing. There are even little side stories that I picked up on. Like Jahla Black’s Rusty Charlie being absolutely smitten over one of the Hot Box Dancers. It was so cute watching their face light up each time they were noticed.
There are so many amazing creatives in this show, I unfortunately cannot name them all, but I have to give a shout out to the absolute queen that is Kikki Temple who portrays the MC and General Cartwright. A commanding presence every time they were on stage, even calling on the audience to applaud louder when they would enter the stage.
Directed by Trudy Dunn and Brandon Pape, the Antipodes Theatre Company production of Guys & Dolls is more than just a musical, it is an experience. Not often do you get to attend a show and get to be part of one. From the tables on the stage to the cast stealing your seats before the show, there is nowhere to hide from them. I had so much fun at this show, and I strongly urge that you take the opportunity to do the same.
Antipodes Theatre Company’s production of Guys & Dolls is on for a limited time at Melbourne’s Chapel off Chapel, with performances running until August 19. Don’t wait too long or you’ll miss it!
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Photography by 3 Fates Media.