Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Book: Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Director: Gordon Greenberg
Reviewer: Fiona Hannon
Guys and Dolls is a glittering example of the golden age of American Musicals, twinkling and sparkling from the opening bars. Set in the heart of Broadway, Sister Sarah Brown of the Salvation Army tries (without any success) to save the souls of the sinners she finds in Times Square. Nathan Detroit needs to find a home for his floating crap game much to the dismay of his long-term fiancée, Miss Adelaide, who has been waiting 14 years to get married. Sky high gambler Sky Masterson is passing through town and Detroit makes a bet that he can’t take Sister Sarah to Havana.
Guys and Dolls is a perfect union of Frank Loesser’s stunning score and lyrics and Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ book, where New York is always pronounced “Nu Yoik”, and all based on Damon Runyon’s stories. From Mindy’s Restaurant to the Billboard Garage, the city is a major character in this fabulous feel-good musical.
Louise Dearman as Miss Adelaide steals the show. By turns, she is hopeful, frustrated and downcast by her relationship with Nathan Detroit, but always warm and effervescent and a terrific comedienne. Her numbers with the Hot Box Girls hit just the right note of fun and flirtywhile Adelaide’s lament is a real moment of discovery as the penny finally drops.
Richard Fleeshman as Sky Mastersonlooks at ease in his sharp suit and it’s easy to see why Sarah Brown abandons some of her principals for him. The chemistry between these two is never in doubt and is especially potent during their time in Havana. Fleeshman has a great voice, although some of his songs would have benefitted from a smoother line. My Time of Day lost some of the stillness of the night, by opting for a more staccato approach.
Anna O’Byrne as Sarah Brown is marvellously awkward and defiant; there’s something of Bambi on ice about her performance. Maxwell Caulfield as Nathan Detroit provides an excellent foil to Miss Adelaide and the other gamblers but perhaps could have been a little sharper, a little snappier.
The partnership between Nicely Nicely Johnson (Jack Edwards) and Benny Southstreet (Mark Sangster) is a huge success and assures the audience that it’s in safe hands right from the start of the show. Edwards also leads the company in one of the stand-out numbers of the night, Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.
However, the real stars of this production are the ensemble, sharp and sassy and endlessly animated. Choreographers Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright have created some stunning dance routines for these accomplished performers and whenever they’re on stage the audience is spoilt for choice with so much to look at.
Set and costume designer Peter McKintosh has excelled in creating a little pocket of Broadway on the stage. The set is swiftly transformed from the billboards and lights of Broadwayto sizzling sultry Havana, to the depths of the New York sewers and back to the Mission Hall. McKintosh’s eye-popping costumes are perfect. Bright, warm, candy colours that never cross over into pastiche.
Musical director Andy Massey leads the orchestra to produce a glorious sound, although occasionally it is allowed to overpower the performers. Director Gordon Greenburg has created a dazzling revival of an old favourite, remaining true to the spirit of Damon Runyon while bringing it shimmering into the 21stCentury.
Runs until Saturday 23 April | Image: Contributed