Guys and Dolls – Milton Keynes Theatre

Book: Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, from Damon Runyon’s short stories

Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser

Director: Gordon Greenberg

Reviewer:Maggie Constable

Strutting its stuff in Milton Keynes this week in good ole US musical style is Chichester Theatre’s acclaimed revival of Guys and Dolls. It is prohibition era in the Big Apple and Nathan Detroit must get some money quickly for his illegal crap game. On top of this, his fiancée of 14 years, cabaret artist Miss Adelaide, is running out of patience with him. When will she become Mrs Detroit? When will Nathan give up the gambling? Cue the infamous Sky Masterson who rolls into town and is never one to miss a chance of some high-risk wagers. Detroit bets Masterson that he cannot take Sister Sarah Brown, saver of souls at the Salvation Army, to dine in Havana no less. How will it all end???

Richard Fleeshman as Sky Masterson swaggers across the stage with total credibility. He possesses that special charisma which has one following his movements like a moth to light. His voice is very rich and he uses it well, as exhibited in his superb rendition of Luck Be A Lady.

Anna O’Byrne takes on the part of Sister Sarah Brown and brings out the naïveté and genuine likeability of the character well. Her wonderfully melodic singing voice really comes alive in the duet I’ll Know with Sky. The harmonies are perfect. Indeed, the couple has a definite chemistry which adds that extra reality to their interactions. However, O’Byrne does the comedy equally well, as evidenced by the hilarious duet with Miss Adelaide, Marry Me, in Act 2.

Maxwell Caulfield brings us a very believable Nathan Detroit, hapless gambler. A nicely understated portrayal. He does not seem as comfortable as his fellow artistes in his singing but nonetheless does justice to his numbers.

The very endearing Louise Dearman delivers the role of Miss Adelaide with charm and pizazz. Her obviously bubbly personality suits the part and she has a real sense of comedic timing. She also has an incredibly powerful voice, as anyone who has seen her in Wicked will testify. Her performance of Take Back Your Mink at the start of Act 2 is spot on.

Special mention must go to Jack Edwards and Mark Sangster in their respective roles as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, sidekicks to Nathan Detroit. The former, in particular, has great stage presence.

The dancing, particularly at the beginning of Act 2, is dynamic and one can really see the influence of ex-Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta in the choreography. That special touch makes all the difference. The set creates just the right ambiance and transitions between scenes are fast and effective. The orchestra, under the guidance of Musical Director Andy Massey, brings out the best in those much-loved tunes like Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat and My Time of Day.

while the first act does at times feel a little long, this show is full of energy and fun and the second act is certainly much more pacey. It is a testament to its enduring appeal that Guys and Dolls is still being revived some 60+ years since it first appeared on Broadway. One can see why. An evening not to be missed.

Runs until 18 June 2016 |Image: Anna O’Byrne

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