Guys and Dolls

Laurence Green finds a revival to relish in a new production of Guys and Dolls at the Phoenix Theatre.

Guys and Dolls

That beloved musical comedy subtitled 'a musical fable of Broadway', namely Guys and Dolls, is back in town and better than ever with a new improved cast at Phoenix Theatre.

Serial wheeler-dealer Nathan Detroit is desperate. He needs money for an illegal dice game and he needs it fast, not to mention a 14-year engagement to nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, whose patience is finally running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a man who can never turn down a bet and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. Nathan's wager is that Sky has to romanticise Sarah by taking her to Havana for dinner and in return he'll provide a dozen sinners for Sarah's mission. Surely this is one bet Nathan Absolutely cannot lose?

This witty (one of the gamblers explains how he got $14,000 to make a bet – "I just collected the reward on my (late) father!") and engaging musical is based on the Broadway stories of Damon Runyon and is full of panache, heart and exuberant joy while the music by Frank Loesser which includes such memorable numbers as I've Never Been in Love Before, A Bushel and a Peck and the barnstorming Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat is both exhilarating and timeless. The 26-strong cast is full of energy gusto and devotion (the excellent choreography is by Carlos Acosta) in particular in the delirious rumba sequence when the action briefly relocates to Havana.

American director Gordon Greenberg draws marvellous performances from his first-rate ensemble in this Chichester Festival Theatre production. Samantha Spiro, replacing Sophie Thompson, as Miss Adelaide, brings an irresistible quirky generosity and vulnerability to a performance that is both vivacious and hilarious. She is perfectly partnered by Broadway veteran Richard Kind who brings spot on timing and a real sense of conviction to the role of Nathan Detroit.

Meanwhile, Oliver Tompsett newly joins Siobhan Harrison who has stayed on from the previous cast, and, although initially brash, soon wins over our hearts as Sky Masterson, and makes his unfolding romance with 'mission doll' Sister Sarah both believable and utterly inevitable and their singing together is truly a match made in heaven! Taking the vocal honours of the evening, though, is Gavin Spokes as Nicely-Nicely Johnson.

Furthermore, Peter McKintosh's evocative design of 1950s (the show premiered in that era) advertising posters, illuminated by a barrage of lights works a treat.

This is certainly a revival to relish – and a helluva good show!

Guys and Dolls

Runs at Phoenix Theatre until Saturday 29 October 2016

Box office: 0870 060 6629

Last modified: April 6, 2021

Written by 12:54 pm Theatre