Guys and Dolls

Posted on: 19 January 2016 by Laurence Green

Laurence Green enjoys a barnstorming new production of Guys and Dolls in London's West End.

Sophie Thompson (Miss Adelaide) and David Haig (Nathan Detroit) in Guys and Dolls - photo by Paul Coltas

One of the most enduring and best-loved musicals of all time, the Prohibition-era classic Guys and Dolls is back in the West End in a scintillating new production directed by Gordon Greenberg that has transferred from the Chichester Festival Theatre  to the Savoy Theatre.

Serial wheeler dealer Nathan Detroit is desperate; he needs money for and illegal dice game and he needs it fast. Not to mention a 14-year engagement with nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, whose patience is finally running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a man who can never turn down a bet, and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. Nathan's wager is that Sky has to romance Sarah, by taking her to Havana for dinner and in return he'll provide a dozen 'sinners'   for Sarah's mission/ Surely this is one bet Nathan absolutely can't lose?

This witty and engaging musical is based on the Broadway stories of Damon Runyon and is full of panache, heart and exuberant joy, while the music by Frank Loesser, which includes such memorable numbers as I've Never Been in Love Before, A Bushel and a Peck, Luck Be a Lady and the barnstorming Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat is both exhilarating and timeless. The 26-strong cast are full of energy, gusto and devotion and dance up a storm (the excellent choreography is by Carlos Acosta) in particular in the delirious rumba sequence when the action briefly relocates to Havana.

American director Gordon Greenberg draws marvellous performances from his first rate ensemble. Jamie Parker is perfect as the suave Sky Masterson, a man so addicted to gambling that he even takes bets on how high his temperature will rise when he has flu, yet who proves to have a soft side when it comes to matters of the heart. Siobhan Harrison impresses as the pious Sarah Brown, the Salvationist from the mission hall who finds herself head over heels in love with a sinner. She touchingly captures the character's sense of hurt and betrayal  - when Sky reveals to Sarah that he only took her to Cuba as a result of a bet, she replies "Well what other way is there to meet a gambler?" - before the final glow of love and confidence. David Haig, meanwhile, as the battered but never quite beaten professional gambler Nathan Detroit, who runs the 'oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York' conveys the character's hangdog shiftiness down to a tea.

There is also a scene stealing performance from Sophie Thompson (sister of Emma) as Miss Adelaide, the ditzy cabaret singer and long unwedded fiancée of Nathan  Detroit.  She is especially good in two of the show's greatest and funniest songs, Adelaide's Lament and Take Back Your Mink, combining gawky vulnerability with a genuinely warm heart.

Furthermore Peter McKintosh's evocative design of 1950s (the show premiered in that era) advertising posters work a treat.

I left the theatre with a spring in my step and a smile on my face and the music echoing in my mind. An out and out triumph!


Guys and Dolls

Plays at The Savoy Theatre until 12 March 2016

Box office: 0844 871 7687

© Images by Paul Coltas

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