30 August 2014

Guys and Dolls at Chichester Festival Theatre was a treat

This is probably the point that I ought to stop saying that I do not go to musicals generally as I seem to have been to rather a lot of them recently and even went as far as Chichester to see this one.

Guys and Dolls was similar to the last two musicals that I saw, Carousel and The Pyjama Game, in that I did not know it very much (if at all) beforehand but I was tempted by its reputation to give it a try.

This was only my second visit to the Chichester Festival Theatre, the previous one was in 1987 to see Wilde's An Ideal Husband with Joanna Lumley. Another visit was overdue.

Apparently the theatre had been refurbished since my previous visit but I had little recollection of what it had looked so comparisons were difficult.

The cafe was popular and I was lucky to get a seat. I would normally have stood but I needed to have something to eat and a vast slice of cake did the treat. The weather was good so a lot of people milled around outside which they must have been expected to do as the space inside was limited, and the seats even more so.

I had remembered that the stage and seating were arranged unusually and they still were. The stage had seating on three sides and the seating was arranged in oddly shaped sections around it.

The stage itself was more horse-shoe shaped than rectangular which helped to explain the unusual seating arrangement.

A late booking meant that the four of us were spread a little as I had had to book four separate seats, B40, B43, C47 and D50, all at £25 each. D50 turned out to be directly behind C47 and the couple sitting in B41/42 moved one seat along to allow us to take B40/41, so it all worked out rather well. This is the view I has looking towards the back of the stage waiting for the show to start.

I was there on the recommendation of one of the friends that I went with and knew nothing of the show beforehand other than having heard of it. I had not heard to the author, Frank Loesser, either. I was relying a lot on that recommendation.

Guys and Dolls was a neat little story of those perennial wars between goodies and baddies and, not surprisingly given the title, men and women.

The baddies were gamblers looking to take part in a large illegal Craps game and the goodies were the local chapter of the Salvation Army keen to recruit these lost souls to their cause.

The main players in the men v women battle were the man trying to organise the Craps game and his fiancee who were taking a rather long time to get to the altar, and the second pair were a top gambler and a young Salvation Army officer who came from different worlds but found themselves attracted to each other.

Adding to the tension were some seriously hard gamblers who would take very unkindly to the Craps game not taking place as planned and a local policeman keen to catch them all in the act. And then there was the senior Salvation Army officer looking to close that section down as it was not making any progress.

These tensions brought a lot of humour and the two main relationships added tenderness to the equation. So, despite the gangsters and ruffians, this was a light and happy story. The only song from the show that I knew, the uplifting "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat", was typical of the mood of the show.

That good mood was maintained by fine singing, good acting and a slick production that kept the story moving at a healthy pace with just a few props being used to define each location. It was all very professional in a good way.

The story duly reached its happy endings to the delight of the packed audience who had been thrilled with the spectacle. It was a jolly fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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