Murder on the Dancefloor: Luck be a Lady

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We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance – Japanese proverb

Luck Be A Lady

Guys and Dolls is a musical that is familiar to many, no doubt due to the fact that it was made into a film in 1955 starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. The story is based on works by Damon Runyon, and the music is by Frank Loesser. My daughter has just finished a run of it, where she played Miss Adelaide, one of the principal parts. It was her first major role, and I found myself tracing back her dancing career to date.

Having done ballet to a fairly high level myself, I was convinced of its importance to my own children, and both my son and daughter attended classes from about the age of 5, gaining their Grade 1 exams. When we moved to Luxembourg, Jem was 9 years old, but we couldn't find a suitable ballet class for her to attend. Instead, she threw herself enthusiastically into the Irish dancing group, organised by the very active Irish ex pats there. On our return to Northern Ireland four years ago, she opted to take up ballet again, as it is key to all other forms of dance.

We found a local teacher, who turned out to have gone to the same ballet school as me all those years ago, and whose bubbly personality was a good match for Jem's. She took her Grade 3 very quickly, and soon after managed to get a distinction in her Grade 5. She's currently working for her Grade 6, and is also now her ballet teacher's assistant, and loves working with the wee ones as they take their first steps into this magical world.

As well as ballet, she also started attending stage school, and it became clear after a few years that to really go places in that arena she'd need to be able to sing as well as dance. Luckily we were able to arrange this through the peripatetic music service available at her school. She's been doing that for less than two years, but even a little bit of training goes a long way, and she recently sang the part of The Narrator in her school production of Blood Brothers, and played Martha, the brainiac who can hip-hop, in High School Musical.

But these parts were nothing like the major tour de force that is Miss Adelaide. It's an absolute peach of a part, and most singers have 'Adelaide's Lament' in their repertoire to demonstrate their ability to sing a character part. She'd had coaching to work on her Noo Yoik accent, and also to make her sound convincingly like she had a cold. Best of all, she was provided with a whole wardrobe of costumes, including a fur coat and a wedding dress. Usually, for a show I'm running round like a headless chicken scouring charity shops and discount outlet stores for required costumes!

And what a fabulous show it is: with unforgettable numbers such as 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight', 'Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat' and 'Take Back Your Mink' it's guaranteed to get the audience clapping and cheering. The cast were mostly young people aged between 14 and 20, with a few adult members in supporting roles. They've all worked enormously hard over the past six weeks, and their efforts have certainly paid off. I attended several of the performances, and each time I was astounded at how Jem connected with the audience: her singing voice, with less than two years of proper training, was powerful and amazing. Her dancing, as always, was exquisite. But the cute-as-a-button charisma that shone through her characterisation was what had the audience eating out of her hand. Her real life boyfriend was playing Nathan Detroit, and his lanky 6 foot frame next to her dainty 5 foot nuthin' just added to the comedic charm of the pair.

Next up is the small matter of her GCSEs, but the big decision is—where to after that?

Murder on the Dance Floor Archive


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