WE INTERVIEWED CONDUCTOR RICHARD BALCOMBE ABOUT THE ENDURING APPEAL OF GUYS AND DOLLS, WHICH RECEIVES FIVE CONCERT PERFORMANCES AT CADOGAN HALL BETWEEN AUGUST 22ND AND AUGUST 25TH.
Guys and Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (1910-1969), is based on stories by Damon Runyon, and was popular and successful from the day it opened in 1950 on Broadway.
The cast for the performances at Cadogan Hall includes Dennis Waterman, who will be narrating, setting the scene, but also gets one song in the role of Arvide : More I Cannot Wish You.
Also in the cast Ruthie Henshall, Lance Ellington, Anna-Jane Casey andGraham Bickley. The 20 piece orchestra – the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra – will be conducted by Richard Balcombe, who conducts opera and musicals all over Europe.
The first remarkable thing about the show, and what brings audiences back to it again and again, is that it should be the repository of quite so many classic songs: Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, Luck Be A Lady Tonight, If I were a Bell, I Have Never Been I Love Before.”….. [**]
“These are proper show tunes”, says Balcombe. The audience knows what it is going to get. Balcombe contrasts the show with How To Succeed in Busines Without Really Trying (1961) and Green Willow (1960) which he has also conducted. They have real strength and originality, but are not overtly “populist and approachable” as Guys and Dolls.
The songs in Guys and Dolls are not just good tune, they are also completely true to the characters singing them , they underline and reinforce each of their personalities. Or as Balcombe explains, “the characterization is genius “. When Skye Masterson sings My Time of Day he’s “suave elegant, sexy, bluesy with more jazz inflection than elsewhere in the show – major 9ths, flattened 5ths”. And when Sarah sings If I were a Bell, she’s “shy, loving, romantic”. A lesser-known song from the show, the duet “Sue Me” has Nathan (sung -above- in the movie version, by Frank Sinatra) singing in a laid back way while Adelaide (the main female comic turn in the show, to be sung by Ruthie Henshall) is “in your face, brassy.”
And what else keeps bringing musicians and audiences back to this show< I asked. Balcombe's response says it all:
“The whole score is pretty much a masterpiece because its so concise. After every song it’s like unwrapping the next parcel and finding that what’s inside is as good as the last. The show never feels it coasts, it’s all at a level of achievement which never backs off.”
[**] There are short clips from all of the musical numbers (including Travellin’ Light which was written for the show but which got left out) at ALLMUSIC.COM