Showbiz has come to Burnley with a bang this week.
If you want razzmatazz, colour, comedy and brilliant song and dance, Burnley Mechanics is the place to be tonight and tomorrow.
For Burnley Light Opera Society’s version of “Guys And Dolls” is jaw-droppingly good.
From the first minute when the curtains open and you see the fabulous set and a lively opening number from the men’s chorus – it is non-stop entertainment.
This story from the 1950s film about gangs of small time gamblers in New York who meet their match in the God-fearing members of the local mission – is pure class. Director and choreographer Anthony Williams and musical director Jonathan Chalker have combined to bring Broadway to Burnley beautifully.
The singing is top drawer, the dance numbers as good as you see on stage anywhere and the cast are just ....so good!
And the shining star is BLOS regular Ann Mason who steals the show as Adelaide, the dumb, dizzy lovestruck fiancee of 14 years of one of the gamblers – Nathan Detroit.
From the moment she came on stage on Tuesday she had the audience mesmerised. With her high pitched squeaky voice and perfect comedy timing, she was hilarious. And she delivered the whole package – accomplished dancing, lovely singing voice, and the way she put 100% into the character of Adelaide, with constant little touches and mannerisms, was just tremendous. If she doesn’t win an award for this performance there is no justice.
Her fiancee, who has valiantly kept their wedding day at bay for 14 years, was her perfect foil. Played wonderfully well by Matt Norris in his first principal role with the society, he was another star in this spectacular show. Matt put Nathan across as another fun, likeable character and let’s hope we see much more of him.
Playing the lead role of Sarah Brown the “mission doll” was Vicki Clarkson whose beautifully strong voice rang out around the theatre. An excellent performance from Vicky as she goes through a whole gamut of emotions as she falls in love with the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Sky Masterson. A nightclub scene when he takes her to Havana for a bet is one of the highlights of the show. It has a great dance routine with a comedy ending, as the unsuspecting Sarah downs too many cocktails believing them to be milkshakes.
Josh Hindle, also in his first principal role with the society, was completely captivating. I kept thinking I was seeing, and hearing, Frank Sinatra in the film version of this musical. He has the looks, acting talent and strong singing voice to go far in musical theatre.
“Guys And Dolls” is far from being one of my favourite films, but this stage version is terrific. It was fast, slick and funny and just so entertaining. And that is in no small part down to the characters such as Nicely Nicely Johnson, played by the lovely David Norris who never fails to raise a laugh. This is just the part for him and, as he leads the chorus in “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat”, I really didn’t want it to end.
Greg Wharf as “Big Jule” was another hilarious character as the top gangster with the big voice and tiny frame. David Slater as hapless police chief Lt Brannigan and the gamblers, Benny played by Paul Ryan, Harry the Horse played by Danny Dilworth, Rusty played by Paul Jackson and Angie the Ox, Alan Whittaker - were all excellent. There are no weakest links in this show.
The mission team are top drawer too. There is a lovely ballad from Geoff Baron as Sarah’s grandad, and it was good to see Cynthia Morris come out from behind the scenes to take on the role of General Cartwright and put in a storng performance.
The nightclub dancers The Hot Box girls , Liz Wood, Jenny Gill, Anne Whittaker and Sue Avanson had some saucy routines which went down a storm.
I’m sure everyone from the society was thinking of their chairman Colin Sanderson, who is still in hospital after suffering a fall at home several weeks ago. But professional to the last the show goes on.
In his programme notes Colin thanks the talented cast and production team. He would have been very proud of his BLOS team this week. And Burnley should be proud of this group who bring the very best in amateur theatre to our doorstep. Long may they continue.
“Guys And Dolls” continues tonight (Friday) and tomorrow at Burnley Mechanics Theatre. Call the box office on 664400 to see if any tickets are available - and cross your fingers they say yes.