Thursday, 7 December 2017

Review: Ray Fearon on stage in Guys and Dolls

Guest blog post by Stephen M Hornby You can follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

Coronation Street fans might remember actor Ray Fearon looking a bit like this in Coronation Street when he played car mechanic Nathan Cooper. 

Ray is now starring in the first all-black production of Guys and Dolls at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Our guest blogger Stephen M Hornby went along on press night and here's what he thought of the show...

Christmas means different things to different ex-Corrie stars.  To a lot it means Pantoland, and the joys of two shows a day full of children screaming at you whilst their parents whisper about how well you have (or haven't) aged.  But to some it means an opportunity to show the full breadth of their talent in a new context for a new audience.  Enter Ray Fearon.

Ray played Nathan Cooper for a little over a year. He joined the street in 2005 when Tracy Barlow walked over to him, a stranger in a nightclub, and snogged his face off whilst Liz McDonald rolled her eyes and said, “What's wrong with hello?“   Nathan was the car mechanic who lost out to Danny Baldwin in the battle to win Frankie Baldwin's heart, and departed the Street never to return (at least not yet…).  Ray, like the character he played, was young, fit and good looking but his storylines never really presented that much of a challenge to this multi-award winning actor.

Now Ray has that challenge in the role of Nathan Detroit in the Royal Exchange Theatre's production of film and stage classic Guy And Dolls.  If you know the 1955 film of the musical, then this is the part played by Frank Sinatra.  Frank Sinatra!  That's quite a benchmark to be measured against….and Ray does a great job, revealing himself as a talented singer, a good dancer and an actor with a gift for comic timing and a great command of the audience.

Nathan Detroit is a 1950s New York fixer of illegal crap games, who's in a relationship with Miss Adelaide, a nightclub singer.   His plot revolves around Nathan's attempts to find secret premises for the games whilst dodging the police, who are on to him, trying to avoid the Mission, who are against drinking and gambling on religious ground, and endlessly postponing his marriage, resulting in a 14 year long engagement.  Along the way are a host of songs you'll know, even if you didn't know that you knew them: Luck Be A Lady Tonight, Take Back Your Mink and If I Were A Bell.  And the action has been freshened up with a relocation to Harlem and the new dynamic that the UK's first all-black cast brings.

Manchester's Royal Exchange has established a recent tradition of doing great musicals for Christmas.  Guys and Dolls continues and extends that tradition.  Beyond the appeal of seeing Ray give a wonderful performance, this show is a perfect Christmas treat for those ready to move on from the pantomime but still wanting a little dose of Corrie nostalgia.

Guy And Dolls runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester until 27 January 2018.

Guest blog post by Stephen M Hornby You can follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenMHornby and on Instagram @stephenmhornby.

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