Book: Jo Swerling &Abe Burrows, based on the Stories and Characters of Damon Runyon
Choreographer: Carlos Acosta &Andrew Wright
Director: Gordon Greenberg
Reviewer: Ruth Gerrard
Rolling into the Palace Theatre before pitching up in the West End next month, Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls will make your heart soar and your cheeks hurt from smiling.
Nathan Detroit (David Haig) is a gambler who runs ‘the oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York’ and has been engaged to the lovely Miss Adelaide (Sophie Thompson); cabaret artiste the Hot Box for 14 years. Miss Adelaide has been attempting to dance Detroit up the aisle all this time and despairs at his obsessions with craps. Detroit makes a wager with Sky Masterson (Jamie Parker) that he can’t take a doll of Detroit’s choosing to dinner in Havana, Cuba. Masterson, who will bet on just about anything, agrees and Detroit chooses Sarah Brown (Siubhan Harrison), a sister at the Save-a-Soul mission operating in the City. Cue lots of fun and games andMiss Adelaide continues to apply pressure to Nathan to marry her and give up the craps. Detroit has no intention of this and exerts all his time and energy into evading Lieutnant Brannigan (William Oxborrow) and setting up the game. Masterson begins to woo Miss Brown but will everyone get what they want in the end?
Haig and Thompson as Detroit and Miss Adelaide respectively are an absolute delight. The pathos from Thompson is heart wrenching and it’s hard to not genuinely feel for her, especially during her lament. However, her comic timing is phenomenal. Without over-mugging, she delivers some of the wittiest lines in the show and generates some of the biggest laughs. Sweling and Burrows’ book is to be commended as the humour is super dry and feels very authentic as well as relevant today. Haig is downtrodden but cheery, tired but full of energy for craps and remains in character throughout.
Harrison and Parker work very well together to create the younger pairing in the show and Parker’s slick, high-rolling Masterson goes through a fantastic transformation on stage. Harrison’s Sarah Brown is the perfect mix of austere – but curious about life outside of the mission. The chemistry they create is believable and endearing.
The ensemble performs incredibly and it is testament to Acosta and Wright that the dance numbers work so well in this production. Full of fire and passion but performed with superb accuracy. It is hard to pin point one standout moment of the whole evening but the performances of Luck be a Lady Tonight and You’re Rocking the Boat are truly euphoric. Gavin Spokes as Nicely-Nicely Johnson deserves a special mention for a heart-warming and accomplished performance as the nicest gambler in town.
London, you are in for a treat when this rolls into town. It is a perfectly executed, strong revival of a fantastic musical than can sometimes be overlooked when talking about quality dialogue and scenes that melt perfectly into beautiful musical numbers. Take a chance, roll the dice and bet on Guys and Dolls –you won’t be disappointed.
Runs until 21 November 2015 Image: Contributed