As Director of Wellington Operatic Society’s production of ‘Guys and Dolls’, Nancy Powell-Brace is bringing a wealth of experience in drama to the show. It includes two previous productions of the musical – the most recent in San Francisco. Her cast, though, was not made up of performers who could identify with Manhattan gangsters, con men and seedy cabaret performers but privileged pupils at one of the Bay’s most exclusive schools.
Nancy was teaching drama in Weston-super-Mare when an exchange opportunity arose. In 2005 she swapped roles with a teacher in a school in San Francisco Bay for a year and, with a purpose-built, fully-equipped theatre at her disposal, directed ‘Blood Brothers’ and then ‘Cinderella’, introducing her bewildered audience to a traditional English pantomime – initially ‘an alien concept’ to them. After ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ and ‘High School Musical’ she directed ‘Guys and Dolls’, making use of a revolving stage and a limitless budget before returning to the UK.
After leaving teaching she settled in Wellington and was involved in her brother Nick’s year-long Actiontrack-led community project to bring ‘The Wondrous Tales of the Whiteball Tunnel’ to fruition in St John’s Church in 2014. Together with Nick’s partner, Victoria Osborne, she opened Odette’s Tea Room in the High Street in 2015, naming it after local resident Odette Hallowes whose story as a member of the French Resistance in WW2 was told in the project. Odette’s now promotes and supports community activities including Wellington Arts Association events and those of local groups and charities.
Nancy’s theatre experience naturally led her to becoming involved in Wellington Operatic Society’s shows, first helping in costuming and then performing in ‘South Pacific’ in 2015. Now she is leading the team (including an ex pupil as Musical Director) which will bring ‘Guys and Dolls’ to the stage of The Wellesley Theatre on Wednesday 10 May.
As Director she says her aim is “to encourage the actors to tell the story. ‘Guys and Dolls’ is a special show with strong male leads and chorus and songs which are not just musical additions to the narrative but actually tell the story – a story that all the crap-shooters tell. It doesn’t matter how old they are, this is an opportunity for men to have a real crack of the whip.” She added, “This is a show I’ve always wanted to do with adults, encouraging them to engage with the audience. I want them to take the audience with them in the story they’re telling and, despite the fact that many will have seen the show before, to never lose sight of the fact that some will be seeing it for the very first time.”
‘Guys and Dolls’ is at The Wellesley, Wellington from Wednesday 10 May to Saturday 13 May at 7.30pm and on Saturday 13 May at 2.30pm. Tickets from Odette’s Tearoom, High Street, Wellington or online from Wellington Arts Association website.