It is always a stimulating experience to attend a production at the Roy Couzens Theatre at Westville Boys High School. One can be assured that the school’s Director of Cultural Affairs, Luke Holder, will dish up something vigorous, fresh and highly entertaining – and that the cream of Westville’s considerable pool of young performing talent will be on display.
Well – the school’s latest offering, the popular musical Guys and Dolls, is certainly no exception. It is a dazzling, rollicking, all-action, feel-good production which delights and entertains from beginning to end.
Every aspect of this show, from the direction to the costumes, choreography, the sets, lighting, sound, the 14 piece band, and the performances themselves is out of the top drawer. The result is a production of significant quality which would not be out of place on a professional stage.
Guys and Dolls is essentially a love story with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It is based on the wonderful stories and characters created by the iconic American author Damon Runyon. Veteran Durban actor and comedian Frank Graham describes Runyon as America’s version of Herman Charles Bosman. That is definitely a very apt comparison.
Runyon created quintessential New York characters of the 1940’s, from small-time gamblers to hustlers, actors, show girls, drunks, street vendors and gangsters. All of these are represented in Guys and Dolls along with the do-gooders from Save-A-Soul Mission.
They are wonderful, larger than life, comic characters which are played with glee and elation by the large cast from Westville Boys High and neighbouring girls schools. The overall standard of performance is so high that I wish I could list all the names. However, space will not allow this so I will chose three stand-out performances to represent the rest of cast.
Mason Campbell as Arvide Abernathy, the elderly bass drummer from the Mission Band, is hilarious as he stumbles about under the weight of his drum. Pierre Parrot as Nicely-Nicely Johnson portrays his nutty character to perfection. He is eccentric, funny and beautifully over the top.
Showgirl Miss Adelaide is played by Jaime Montgomery. This young lady, a Grade 11 pupil from Westville Girls High School, puts in a sublime performance of considerable skill and talent. Her timing is impeccable and she creates a lovable and multi-faceted character. Her diction is excellent and her accent never slips. Montgomery is a rare talent and one to look out for in the future.
The entire Production Team for this show deserves special mention. The costumes are beautifully authentic and the choreography by Fiona Barnes is quite superb, while the 14-piece band assembled by Brett Alborough is fabulous. The lighting by Michael Broderick is excellent while the complex sound design by Megan Levy is brilliant and faultless.
However, the man who deserves very special kudos is the director/musical director/designer of the production, Luke Holder. His work is always very special, but on this occasion he surpasses himself. His ensemble pieces, and the bits of action he has going on throughout the production, are an absolute delight. This man would make a substantial impact on the professional stage, but to his great credit he chooses, for now, to teach and develop young talent.
It is a great pity, given the amount of work put into it, and the inspired quality of the production that Guys and Dolls does not enjoy a longer run. It can be seen at Westville Boys High School until August 8.
I would recommend that you make every effort to see this show. For tickets or more information, contact the school on 031 267 1330, or email [email protected] – Keith Millar