Guys and Dolls: A glorious revival at the Savoy Theatre – Review

Siubhan Harrison (Sarah Brown) and Jamie Parker (Sky Masterson) in Guys and Dolls
Siubhan Harrison (Sarah Brown) and Jamie Parker (Sky Masterson) in Guys and Dolls – photo by Paul Coltas

There are musicals that are strong on song and dance, leaving the narrative trailing behind. There are musicals with a good storyline but don’t require, at least at face value, exceptional dancing ability. And then there’s Guys and Dolls, with a plot that is remarkably believable for a big song-and-dance musical comedy. It’s got it all, to quote the opening line from Annie Get Your Gun’s ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ – “The costumes, the scenery, the makeup, the props…” I’ve had an unusually long think, racking my brains to see if there’s anything I didn’t like about this Chichester Festival Theatre production. And there’s nothing. My negative thoughts on this show are as empty as my bank balance at the time of writing (shortly after the Christmas and New Year period).

Which leaves me, therefore, to pick out a few positives. The music, lyrics and dialogue are crystal clear throughout. The show’s orchestra under Gareth Valentine’s baton plays very well indeed, never even coming close to drowning out the lyrics. The general volume of the show is set at a level that’s just right: these are things that aren’t always the case even with the big West End productions, and are, for me, major contributors to this show’s likeability.

Sophie Thompson plays a very animated, if naïve, Miss Adelaide: not an easy task, as the character could have, in less talented hands, tipped over into being too melodramatic or otherwise just plain irritating.

This Adelaide, however, is a hoot, gaining maximum rapport with the audience by either rising to hyperbole or being almost resignedly deadpan, or something in between those extremes, whatever the most suitable response was at a particular point.

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

The choreography (by Andrew Wright and none other than Carlos Acosta) is sublime, if a tad sexier than those who have seen previous incarnations of Guys and Dolls might expect. Gavin Spokes as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Lorna Gayle as General Matilda B Cartwright more than do ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ justice in what Broadway calls ‘the eleven o’clock number’ (for which read ‘showstopper’). It’s one of those tunes that is a musical theatre concert favourite for good reasons, and if you’ve yet to experience it in its proper context, you’re especially in for a treat. And if you’ve heard it dozens of times before, it would surprise me very much if you came away disappointed.

Nathan Detroit (David Haig) seems to be feeling the pressure from every side, eliciting more sympathy than a gambler who dug his own grave and should therefore lie in it should. Siubhan Harrison as Sarah Brown captures the character of an intelligent but innocent young lady (sorry, ‘doll’) with skill. I also enjoyed Neil McCaul’s Arvide Abernathy, an unflappable, unshockable grandfather figure who proves more streetwise than most – of any age. But it’s Jamie Parker’s Sky Masterson who steals the show for me. Overall Parker comes across as so utterly comfortable, confident and convincing, and there’s the enthusiastic rendering of ‘Luck Be A Lady’, amongst other numbers.

A glorious revival, with plenty of laughs, passion and charisma. It’s a cliché, but they really don’t write musicals like this anymore these days. It’s rare to hear quite so many people humming and singing the tunes on the way out of the theatre – if I were a gambler I’d consider putting money on you doing the same (if only, like me, in your head). Strongly recommended.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Nathan Detroit is desperate: he needs money for an illegal dice game, and he needs it fast. Not to mention a 14 year engagement with night-club singer Miss Adelaide whose patience is finally running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a guy who can never turn down a bet, and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. The wager: 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?

The sizzling New York tale of gamblers, gangsters and nightclub singers will leave you ‘walking on air’ (Daily Telegraph) with a glorious evening featuring some of Broadway’s greatest show-stopping tunes, including Luck be a Lady, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat and My Time of Day.

Along with dazzling choreography by world-renowned Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright (Singin’ in the Rain and Barnum); direction from the celebrated New Yorker, Gordon Greenberg, Guys and Dolls is one feel-good show you won’t want to miss.

Guys and Dolls @ London’s Savoy Theatre | NEW Trailer

Guys and Dolls
Savoy Theatre
Strand, London, WC2R 0ET

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