Home » London Theatre Reviews » Guys & Dolls at Bridge Theatre, London | Review

Guys & Dolls at Bridge Theatre, London | Review

It’s no exaggeration to state there isn’t a show quite like this one that I’ve ever seen. Bold and imaginative in its execution, it’s as immersive as members of the audience would like it to be – you can sit down (and not rock the boat, so to speak), as I did, or take your place in the ‘Immersive Tickets Standing Stage Area’. But if you want to stand all evening, be prepared to move around, and not necessarily out of choice, either. I was bemused more than anything else at the sight of theatre staff dressed as officers of the New York Police Department, who called patrons forward to stand in a given area, only to tell them to move back again minutes later. It only affirmed my choice to be in the seated section – it all felt a bit ‘do this, do that, stand here, go over there, move somewhere else’, but the immersive crowd seemed to take it all in their stride, as it were. There was even a moment when a couple known to your reviewer was temporarily separated by a section of staging that rose between them.

Guys & Dolls: L-R Owain Arthur, Jonathan Ander Hume, Ryan Pidgen, George Ioannides. Photo Credit Manuel Harlan.
Guys & Dolls: L-R Owain Arthur, Jonathan Ander Hume, Ryan Pidgen, George Ioannides. Photo Credit Manuel Harlan.

That this is necessary in the first place is down to the configuration of the performance area, with different sections of staging rising and falling dependent on the requirements of each scene. There are also bits of set and props that come on and off, which of course happens in (almost) every show, except in a proscenium arch setting the audience doesn’t see tables and chairs, amongst other things, being carried into the performance area and being set up, all while a scene is continuing in another section. It makes one appreciate the hard work of stagehands and crew more widely.

Just when I began to wonder if your local panto was fundamentally more immersive than this show (in terms of overall audience participation), the audience was invited to join in a well-known chorus, and then willing volunteers were given brief and non-speaking parts in a subsequent scene. Anyone of a nervous disposition can rest assured that there are plenty of other people who would be happy to have their on-stage moment if you would rather not. It’s also worth hanging around for a little while after the bows, as the curtain call extends even after the playout music, to give the immersive crowd a last hurrah.

The immersive audience aspect works well in different scenes, from the busy Manhattan streets, which gave Sarah Brown (Celinde Schoenmaker) of the Save-A-Soul Mission a ready audience for street preaching (very brief, I hasten to add), to the nightlife of Havana, where Sky Masterson (George Ioannides) takes Brown for dinner. It’s in Cuba, as well as in a New York nightclub called Hot Box, where Miss Adelaide (Timmika Ramsay, who has a hugely likeable stage presence) that the choreography (Arlene Phillips with James Cousins) comes into its own.

And that’s just in the first half. The show’s best-known numbers come after the interval. ‘Luck Be A Lady’ received rapturous applause, although the jewel in the crown is ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’, which sees Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jonathan Andrew Hume) lead the large company in a song-and-dance with two encores, despite the (somewhat contrived) protestations of the orchestra’s conductor Tom Brady. The costumes (Bunny Christie and Deborah Andrews) are delightful, from the sharp suits of the members of the ‘permanent floating crap game’ (as the programme, which also has a glossary, puts it) to the frocks and outfits of the Hot Box ladies. Even the Save-A-Soul Mission uniforms, plain as they are, are always pristine and presentable.

Energetic and engaging, this show is gloriously fun and enjoyable.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Bridge transforms for one of the greatest musicals of all time. It has more hit songs, more laughs and more romance than any show ever written.

The seating is wrapped around the action while the immersive tickets transport you to the streets of Manhattan and the bars of Havana in the unlikeliest of love stories.

Join us on Broadway for the explosion of joy that is Guys & Dolls.

Book Tickets for Guys & Dolls

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