The Mill at Sonning’s Christmas musical this year could almost be described as a Fairytale of New York, writes Peter Anderson.
Guys & Dolls is a Frank Loesser musical based on the characters of Damon Runyan who themselves were based on real New Yorkers.
Meet gamblers, petty crooks, nightclub singers, as well as strait-laced missionaries, who will delight and beguile you.
Joseph Pitcher returns once again to the Mill as director, and he tells me he has quite the background for musicals. “I was drawn to theatre from a very young age and gained experience as a performer in local amateur and youth theatre productions,” he says. “At the age of 18 I moved to London to train as a dancer. After graduating I spent several years appearing West End musicals before retraining on a straight acting course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which led me to work at the national, the RSC and in several of the UK’s leading regional theatres, including the Mill at Sonning where I now regularly direct.
“Alongside performing I had always directed and choreographed in a ‘let’s do the show right here, right now’ type way.”
I wondered what Joseph’s early memories of seeing plays and musicals were. “I have very clear memories of my mum taking me to an amateur version of Grease when I was about seven or eight. I was mesmerised! But the first West End show I saw was Joseph & the Technicolour Dream Coat at the Palladium. And the first show that had a real impact on me in terms of wanting to become a director one day was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It was directed by Matthew Warchus, who many years later was my boss at Matilda!”
So, what can we expect from Guys & Dolls, and does performing in more of an amphitheatre make a difference? Joseph says: “We’re hoping to bring a little bit of Broadway to Sonning! An exciting reimagining of a classic musical, vibrant characterisations by West End performers and beautifully orchestrated arrangements of some wonderful songs.” Each performance space presents different challenges, but along with those challenges come opportunities. I wouldn’t say I really have a preference. Working in the semi-round is great in terms of how immersed the audience are in the action but you have to have a constant eye on making sure everyone feels involved.”
Guys & Dolls has it all – glamour, fun, romance, dazzling dance numbers, stunning costumes and some of the greatest show tunes ever including Luck be a Lady and Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat. For your chance to see the show, which runs until February 23rd, please go to www.millatsonning.com