Review: Guys and Dolls – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Concert Hall QPAC

Images: Nick Morrissey

Guys and Dolls – what an absolute cracker of a show. I’ve seen it live several times, watched the (1955) movie with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando more times than is normal, and even played Miss Adelaide in my hometown’s local production. Needless to say I was thrilled to be headed to QPAC’s Concert Hall last Friday night for the opening of this play the first for Harvest Rain Theatre Company’s 2014 Season and also first full season as a professional musical theatre company.

The show is set in New York in the 1940s and most of the action takes place on and around Broadway (with a flying visit to Havana). The central plot of Guys and Dolls is a romance; it follows the story of gambler, lady’s man and ‘sinner’ Skye Masterson who, as a result of a misplaced bet, falls in love with Sarah Brown an earnest, uptight, Salvation Army missionary. The subplot includes another romance in a different key – that between Miss Adelaide a Broadway showgirl and another gambler, the hapless Nathan Detroit.

The show opened at the 46th street theatre in New York in 1950 and has enjoyed immense success ever since. The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is hilariously timeless, and the music/lyrics by Frank Loesser are an absolute delight. Revered classics such as Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat performed so joyfully in this production by Daryl Somers playing Nicely Nicely Johnson, and Luck Be a Lady are, of course, remarkable, but it is the lesser know numbers such as Sue Me, More I Cannot Wish You and Marry the Man Today that really show Loesser’s genius as a lyricist and composer. It’s a classic of the modern American musical theatre and is a great choice for Harvest Rain. Continue reading Review: Guys and Dolls – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Concert Hall QPAC

Review: Hairspray – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC

Musical theatre – what some believe to be America’s great gift to the theatre – is as Ronald Harwood puts it, a meeting of realism and razzmatazz. Traditionally musicals have taken social issues and reworked them into a confection of story, song and dance. The musical Hairspray follows in this tradition. With book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Mark Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Whittman and Mark Shaiman, Hairspray is as sweet and light as a root-beer float, and positively dripping in nostalgia for a time that was, perhaps, not as carefree and breezy as the play might suggest.

We’re in 1962 Baltimore, MA. JFK’s the President – for another year or so, anyway – and the Civil Rights movement is gathering momentum. There are pockets of ignorant, outmoded white resistance to what will be a bright, new, integrated tomorrow in the USA. Kids who don’t fit – here black or ‘pleasantly plump’/fat – are figures of fun, bullied by various grotesque authority figures, and excluded by their peers. They long for acceptance, and dream of being part of the great American success story. But never fear, this is musical land and, by the play’s end, all’s right with the world.

No wonder Hairspray has been such a hit on screen (1988; 2007) and stage, (8 Tony Awards on Broadway) and why it’s currently the pinup musical for pro-am companies all over the country. It’s bright and colourful, the music is sweetly nostalgic, the sentiment uplifting and hopeful. It’s no Showboat or South Pacific or Rent any of the other great musicals that took burning social issues and thrust them in the audience’s face, but then, Hairspray doesn’t set out to. What we get is a larger than life – the words ‘fabulous’ and ‘fantastic’ spring to mind – technicolor rendition of a time we wish there might have been. Continue reading Review: Hairspray – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC