Review of Guys and Dolls at the Phoenix Theatre

Guys and Dolls at the Phoenix TheatreIt might seem a little old fashioned, have a wonky time-line, have set-piece songs that don’t move the plot along and a last scene that comes right out of nowhere but Guys And Dolls is a classic and one of the greatest musicals ever written, and the current production at The Phoenix Theatre does it proud.

First performed on Broadway in 1950, it’s now a bit of a period piece but Frank Loesser’s songs such as “If I Were A Bell”, “Luck Be A Lady” and “A Bushel And A Peck” are hard-wired into our memory banks and still have the ability to make us laugh and occasionally cry. Apart from one or two dull-ish ballads, the songs crackle with delicious lyrics and memorable melodies and the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is as sharp-witted now as it was 66 years ago.

Based on two short stories from the twenties and thirties by New York writer Damon Runyan, it tells the intertwined love stories of Nathan Detroit & Miss Adelaide and Skye Masterson & Sarah Brown. Throw in the likes of Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Harry The Horse and Big Jule and the characters of Runyan’s New York make the leap from page to stage without missing a beat.

This “musical fable of Broadway” is superbly directed by Gordon Greenberg who brings his Broadway experience to the West End and doesn’t let the pace (or the laughs) stop for a moment; there isn’t a dull spot to be found. He’s ably abetted by choreographers Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta who together have given us some of the finest dancing currently to be seen in London. There’s no indication how they divided up the dance sequences but there’s no doubt that Acosta brings all of his Cuban heritage to the Havana scene and gives the audience a flavour of the city with a sensuous display from the dancers especially Selina Hamilton and Jacob Maynard.

The orchestra of eleven sounds like double that and they’re superbly led by Gareth Valentine one of London’s most experienced and accomplished MD’s.

A special mention most go to Peter McKintosh’s amazing set. Considering it had to kept fairly simple due the the fact that another cast are at the moment touring around the UK with exactly the same production, he’s done an amazing job. The backdrop of portions of American advertising billboards from the fifties such as TWA, Chevrolet and Lucky Strike cigarettes is inspired.

But the true stars of the show are of course the amazing cast all of who were absolutely superb. American actor Richard Kind (“Mad About You”, “Spin City” etc.) steals the show as Nathan Detroit getting the big laughs with his hang-dog expression and lugubrious delivery – he has as they say “funny bones”. However the rest of the cast are not far behind. Samantha Spiro as the put upon Miss Adelaide is just wonderful whether she’s gaining our sympathy for having been engaged to Detroit for 14 years in “Adelaide’s Lament” or hamming it up a la Marlene Dietrich in “Take Back Your Mink”. Oliver Thompsett as Sky Masterson brings just the right amount of panache and vulnerability to the part and Siubhan Harrison is delightful as Sarah Brown. The rest of the ensemble are splendid but just as it should be, Gavin Spokes as Nicely-Nicely Johnson stops the show with one of the greatest ever “11 o’clock numbers” ever written, “Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat” – the roar from the audience could have been heard above the traffic making its slow way along Charing Cross Road!

This is a joyous evening of vitality, energy and pure pleasure. Standing ovations are given all too easily these days but as the audience got to their feet as one at the end, this one was richly deserved.

4 and a Half stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Nominated for 6 Olivier Awards – including Best Musical Revival

Don’t miss this sizzling New York tale of gamblers, gangsters and nightclub singers as it ‘LIGHTS UP THE WEST END’ (The Daily Telegraph) with 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.

With ‘PITCH PERFECT’ (Metro) direction from Gordon Greenberg, and ‘SCINTILLATING CHOREOGRAPHY ’ (Financial Times) from Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright, GUYS AND DOLLS provides ‘THE MOST ECSTATI C MUSICAL MOMENT IN LONDON’ (Metro).

A cast and orchestra of over 40 is led by multiple Olivier Award-winning actress Samantha Spiro as the long-suffering Miss Adelaide, Richard Kind (Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out) as Nathan Detroit with Oliver Tompsett as Sky Masterson and Siubhan Harrison as the pious Salvation Army sergeant, Sarah Brown.


Buy London Theatre Tickets

Guys and Dolls
Running Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Show Opened: 25th Jan 2016
Booking Until: 30th Oct 2016

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