THE ﬁrst night of Witham Operatic Society’s Guys and Dolls revealed a show to enchant the eye if not always the ear! The trouble with popular American musicals is the Yankee accent, and in this one it is, or should be, laid on thick and heavy. In any case the synthetic version is a tiresome sound and we hear too much of it already, especially on TV commercials.
Al Capone would have rejoiced to recruit the men's chorus en bloc. They were an ugly bunch of hoodlums who sang splendidly when they were not rolling dice. Prominent was Malcolm Lowe who used his fine tenor voice nicely as Nicely~Nicely Johnson with, amongst many others, Tim Sheppard (Benny Southstreet), Ernie Law (Harry the Horse) and the most terrifying of all, Big Jule menacingly taken by Ron Howe.
Nicholas Clough was effectively cool and aloof as Sky Masterson, the super gambler. He was much admired on 42nd Street and the leading doll of the local mission hall admired him too. This doll was tall, good-looking, sang well and when she let her hair down, undulated as sexily as the other dolls who were not burdened with morals. A ﬁne performance by Hilary Brunning.
Now Janet Collins played a very different sort of doll. If she reminded us of Oklahoma’s Ado Annie this was no bad thing, for Miss Adelaide is the statutory scatter-brained cutie beloved of American audiences. Her big moment came in the quite magnificent production number, Take back your Mink, when, assisted by Helene Jones, Anne Sheppard, Kate Stevenson and Christine Willetts, in gorgeous anatomical costumes, she led a routine worthy of Metro Goldwvn Mayer.
Peter Charters as Arvide Abernathy contributed the best vocal offering of the evening with his solo, More I Cannot Wish You and everyone both on and off stage worked tremendously hard to ensure the success of the production.
Derek Collins, whose direction was as slick and inventive as ever, doubled as Nathan Detroit, the greasy gambling promoter. Musical director Ken Ferris doubled too, as apart from controlling a select 0rchestra specially chosen for the job, he became the mission hall organist. And Cynthia Stead, as well as contriving some lively dances, rotated an attractive hip as the Cuban dancer.
The multiplicity of scenes was well handled, the lighting will be improved after the first night and the crapshooters will be just as enthusiastic about their game as they are in the rousing Sit Down, You’re Rockin‘ the Boat - one of the high spots of the show, splendidly led by Malcolm Lowe.
They’ve got to be really quick and smart to tackle Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser. Under their producer Derek Collins, Witham Operatic Society are quicker and smarter than most and the first night of this musical at the Public Hall marked the start of a successful week.
This ever popular mixture of sex and violence with a Mary Whitehouse ending was handled by a choice bunch of chanters and hoofers who peopled the stage with an immense variety of neatly sketched characters.
Outstanding was Hilary Brunning, as the mission doll with Nicholas Clough as the good. bad guy who stole her heart. Broadway would instantly accept Janet Collins (Miss Adelaide) on the evidence of her superb number Take Back Your Mink, and Derek Collins (Nathan Detroit) made a droll reluctant lover.
Malcolm Lowe (Nicely-Nicely Johnson) and Peter Charters as the old salvationist with the drum made a strong bid for the Singing honours, efficiently aided and abetted by musical director Ken Ferris and his hand-picked brassy orchestra. At times the stage was under-lit, and the veneer of an American accent rubbed off here and there, but it's going to be a great show for the rest of the week.