NEW Earswick Musical Society, now in their 99th year, return in Guys And Dolls, based on Damon Runyon’s short stories of the post-prohibition underworld of Broadway, New York.

Directed by Ann McCreadie with musical direction from Don Pears, the society injects the theatre with a vibrant burst of 1950s action.

Andy Stone cuts a mischievous figure as Nathan Detroit, a loveable rogue desperate to find a new venue for his illegal crap games, all the while stringing along his long-suffering but much-loved fiancée, Miss Adelaide, played with comic charm by Carol Richardson.

Having found a location, but devoid of the $1,000 needed to hire it, Detroit bets gambler Sky Masterson (Mark Simmonds) that he can’t take the pious Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Salvation Army (Jo Pears) to Havana for the evening.

The large supporting cast adds vital energy by ably playing a host of extra characters, from gamblers and dancing girls to Cuban restaurant patrons and the congregation at the Mission. Not to be ignored, though, are Chris Hagyard as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Gary Riley as Big Jule. Riley plays the Chicagoan wise-cracking gangster with depth and intrigue, making this bit part a threatening force to be reckoned with.

Hagyard, however, is the real star of the production. He is funny, talented and exuberant, a particular highlight of the show being his rendition of Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat, which is full of life and is perfectly bolstered by the ensemble and Don Pears’ excellent live band.

However, the production is not without its issues. Though Stone and Richardson have wonderful chemistry, the same cannot be said for Simmonds and Pears as Sky and Sarah, leading to problems with pacing and sincerity in their love story. Despite Pears giving a strong performance (her songs are particularly impressive), her presence is unmatched by Simmonds who lacks the aloof masculinity and charm required in the role.

At times, almost every actor wrestles with their character’s accent which tends to momentarily jar the performance.

Nevertheless, New Earswick Musical Society makes a valiant effort in producing this difficult musical. This show is full of heart and is sure to put a tune in your head and a spring in your step.

Guys And Dolls, New Earswick Musical Society, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, today 2.30, and 7.30pm. Tickets: 0844 8700887

Review by Stephanie Faye Bartlett