Talawa Theatre’s new all-black production of Guys and Dolls, the Frank Loesser timeless musical comes to the Manchester stage, opening at the Royal Exchange on 2nd December. With an all-black cast, the action has been relocated to Harlem during its renaissance and it celebrates the zeal and gusto of Black America at that time.
Ashley Zhangazha co-stars as Sky Masterson with Ray Fearon as Nathan Detroit with Abiona Omonua as Sarah Brown and Lucy Vandi as Miss Adelaide.
Directed by Michael Buffong, for Sky and Nathan hustling is way of life, living on the edge until one night they both decide to take a chance on love.
A musical treat is in store for the audience with songs like “Luck Be a Lady”, and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat”. Alt Africa caught up with lead actor Ashley for a quick chat.
Q: What is exciting about being part of this production?
I have not been in a musical in a long time. I would say the nature of it, in the that fact that Michael has decided to use an all-black cast and transport the action to Harlem, which was originally in Manhattan allows us to look at the story in a different way. There is a lot of excitement in that we are doing something different it is not the usual Guys and Dolls that people are used to.
Q: How does it feel to be part of an all-Black cast?
It’s great! I have been in all black cast before, third or fourth time, a good atmosphere, there is nothing wrong with a mixed cast. But there is a certain energy in the room that is special, and this time it feels like we are really creating something from the beginning.
Q: What would you bring to the role of Sky Masterson?
There is a smoothness and sleekness to Sky, which comes with a lot of confidence that the character has. I would like to bring some depth to what is lurking beneath all that.
Q: What is Guy and Dolls about for someone who is not familiar with the musical?
It is essentially about two different worlds, the church and the street. So, on one side you have the salvation army missionaries who are trying to heal sinners and on the other side you have a group of gabblers and hustlers and there is these two characters Sky and Nathan. Nathan bets Sky $1000 he can’t take one of the mission dolls (women) to Havana for the evening and the plot develops from there
Q: How would you describe the on- going appeal of the production?
It has fantastic music and what we are trying to do with this production is just free the music up a bit to have a real gospel feel, a kind of jazzy bluesy feel. And it also has such a real fantastic story. The story, and the music fit perfectly. That is why it is done so often and is such a crowd pleaser as well.
Q: Who are the actors/actresses that you admire?
I am a massive fan of Denzel Washington he has amazing screen and stage presence, in the last couple of years he has done more stage roles. I have always thought of him as a fantastic actor.
Q: Which do you prefer the stage or the screen?
I still like the experience of having a live audience although they both have equal merit. But if you were to push me I would probably say that the experience of being live and the fact that just about anything can happen is exciting.