The Paddocks, where the show was being performed, is actually a community centre, so the theatre space was actually a large hall. This meant that even with the main cast members having microphones, there were a few occasions when some dialogue / lyrics were lost in the large space.
The cast were supported by a fantastic orchestra, who were positioned in front of the stage. It makes a change to be able to see and hear an orchestra warm up and for them to play a full prologue, something I always enjoy listening to.
The set was amazing. Several tall backdrops with working doors, excellently painted, dominated the back of the stage whilst a range of furniture was used in the various scenes to great effect.
The principle cast was excellent. James Dandridge played Nathan Detroit brilliantly, encapsulating the strong yet bumbling nature of the character well. The casting of James opposite Jo Adams as Adelaide was superb, as the contrast in their builds, added with the excellent on-stage chemistry between them, made their scenes a joy to watch. Jo herself played one of the best versions of Adelaide I have seen in a long time. From her speaking voice - how she kept that up the whole show is beyond me, a true feat - to her singing and dancing, with multiple costume changes, she was a joy to watch. Adelaide's Lament and Sue Me were two of my favourite performances of the show.
The other couple of the show, Sister Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson were played by Anita Dorey and Paul Allwright and were an excellent contrast to Nathan and Adelaide. Anita sung with power and confidence, yet somehow she managed to keep in character as the reserved mission worker. I have to admit that when Paul first appeared on stage I wasn't sure if he would be able to believe in him as the strong character of Sky due to his stature, however I was very wrong as he played the role with every bit the strength, charisma and power needed.
Completing the principal cast was Rob Turner and Dave Roberts as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet. They worked excellently together and provided many comedic moments throughout the show. A special mention has to go to Rob in particular who acted every second he was on the stage. From before the stage lights went up in a scene all the way to the curtain calls, he was in character all the time. His song, Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat, was another highlight.
This leads me nicely onto talking about all the supporting cast, who also did an excellent job. Even though there were moments in the chorus numbers, the gangsters in particular, where I was not 100% convinced with the singing, they all performed with gusto. The mission band also deserve a special mention as even though many of them were not on stage a great deal, and when they were they either stood and were onlookers or simply walked across the scene, they added to the feel of the whole show well.
Special mentions also have to go to the young dancers in the sewer scene, the Hotbox Girls with their onstage, mid song, costume changes, Dave Sutton as Big Julie - an excellent character role played with comic pathos - and finally the staff and customers in Havana. The contrast between the two cafés / dances was excellent. The sleaziness of the first group compared to the style and poise of the second was extremely funny.
Overall, Benfleet Operatic Society did an excellent job with Guys and Dolls and I will be keeping an eye out for what they are doing in the future.