Writer: Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, from Damon Runyon’s short stories
Director: Gordon Greenberg
Reviewer: R G Balgray
Damon Runyon’s New York stories are firmly locked in time and place, but they crackle with energy and humour. At the King’s Theatre in Glasgow this week, the Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls goes a long way towards doing justice to the original, adding a healthy slice of pzazz in the process.
From the off, a glitzy set backdropping a montage of advertising posters from the 1940s and 50s sets the wisecracking, dancing, and singing in motion, grabbing the audience’s attention and never letting go. This production is energetic and full of life and enthusiasm, capturing the swagger and brio of those larger than life Runyonesque characters. It’s a blast of nostalgia for the good old days of the musicals, with the emphasis on just what a blast they must have been.
Musically, the power and energy from the orchestra in the pit punches well above its weightand helps provide much of the show’s verve. But this is more than matched by solid performances from the principals, who belt out the big numbers littering the production. Richard Fleeshman makes a super-slimy Sky Masterson, and Maxwell Caulfield a weaselly Nathan Detroit; while Anna O’Byrne convinces as the strait-laced Sarah Brown (particularly when playing the foil to Louise Dearman’s splendidly comic Miss Adelaide, Nathan’s long-suffering fiancée). But pride of place musically goes to Jack Edwards as Nicely Nicely, for aSit Down, you’re Rocking the Boatthat really does bring the house down. By comparison, some of the jokes may not quite shine as brightly, the wisecracks snap quite as sharply – but the audience didn’t really seem to mind. Some of them may have remembered the halcyon days of musical theatre, but again, comparisons would be invidious. Almost all of them were leaving the theatre with an increased feel-good factor firmly in placeand smiles on their faces.
Runsuntil Saturday 11June 2016 | Image: Contributed