Director: Gordon Greenberg
Writer: Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows (based on the story and characters of Damon Runyon)
Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Choreography: Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
There is always a real buzz when a musical from the Golden Age of Hollywood is taken out, dusted down and given a new lease of life and award-winning Chichester Festival Theatre’s touring production of Guys and Dolls does just this.
Directed by Gordon Greenberg this wonderful production of a story based on Damon Runyon’s characters never fails to impress and entertain. With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, the easily recognised tunes just keep coming thick and fast, instantly delighting the Southampton audience.
From the opening overture, simple but dazzling Peter McKintosh set, which is garishly lit to perfection by Tim Mitchell, the audience is instantly transported to 1950s New York, a time of gangsters, dance girls and gamblers.
Heading this group of ne’er-do-wells is Nathan Detroit, a small-time arranger of floating crap games. When the high rollers are in town, Nathan (Maxwell Caulfield) pressurised by Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jack Edwards) and Benny Southstreet (Mark Sangster), is desperate to find a place to hold the game. Juxtapose this with the local Save-a-Soul Mission lead by Sister Sarah Brown (the divine and perfect Anna O’Byrne) and there is clearly trouble on the horizon.
Having accepted a bet by Nathan, high roller Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman) has to take Sarah Brown on a date to Havana. Cue friction and romance.
Fleeshman gives a sterling performance as Sky and his ‘chemistry’ with O’Byrne is evident from the outset. From the high-octane Havana dance routines, both performers give it their all and stand out among an incredibly strong ensemble, a character in itself. A special mention must go to Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright for choreographing such a feverish dance routine and the choreography cannot be faulted from start to finish. It is both exciting and exhausting watching it.
It is extremely tricky to identify a particular routine or song that grabs the attention of the audience as this is a show full of them. From the comedy of Adelaide’s Lament, delivered impeccably with a high-pitched nasal twang by Lucy Jane Adcock as Miss Adelaide, Nathan’s long-suffering fiancée, through to the romance of I’ve Never Been In Love Before, the audience is full of applause. But Jack Edwards brings the house down with Nicely-Nicely’s Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat. Much applause and whooping from the audience ensures this is a firm favourite.
This is a guaranteed fabulous evening out and it is particularly heart-warming to see an audience made up of young and old thus showing the love for this golden musical.
Runs until 21 May 2016 | Image:Paul Coltas