Guys and Dolls regularly tops lists of ‘Best Ever Musicals’, so hopes are always high when a new production appears in theatres.
Which means it’s a huge relief that this production, which originated at the Chichester Festival Theatre, meets expectations.
The songs in Guys and Dolls are wonderful. They’re always going to be wonderful. It would take someone pretty special to make Luck Be A Lady or I’ve Never Been In Love Before sound bad, and thankfully nobody like that has a place in this cast.
From top to the bottom, the cast is strong. However, there are a couple of performers who stand tall above their peers. The first of these is Louise Dearman, who nails the combination of street-smarts and naivety needed for Miss Adelaide, and adds dollops of spot-on comic timing. There’s no need to mention her singing voice – it’s Louise Dearman, for heaven’s sake.
Jack Edwards as Nicely-Nicely Johnson – someone who can be overlooked when surrounded by so many other imposing characters – is a joyful presence on stage, and he absolutely nails Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat; probably the finest musical production (and performance) of the show.
The two male leads, Richard Fleeshman (Sky Masterson) and Maxwell Caulfield (Nathan Detroit), shouldn’t work as well together as they do, but the show’s all about unexpected chemistry. Caulfield’s rumpled, bedraggled Detroit is a wonderful counter-balance to Fleeshman’s sharp, dashing Masterson.
Sky is the rogueish character you’ve come to expect, but this time he has a little more grit – there’s an anger (aimed at himself for conning his love interest Sarah Brown) not usually seen. It’s an interesting crease added to the usually perfectly-pressed character, and something I’d like to have seen more of.
Director Gordon Greenberg has done great things with Frank Loesser’s now 56-year-old musical, and it looks and feels as vibrant now as anything else in British theatres. This is in no small part down to the remarkable choreography of Carlos Acosta, which punctuates the production and injects energy into scenes that traditionally threaten to slow the pace (Havana, for example).
From the simple, yet suitably bright set-design, to the respectful musical arrangements (with a couple of new bits created for Acosta’s dancers) and complementary casting, there’s nothing to not like about this excellent take on Guys and Dolls.
Guys and Dolls was reviewed at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury.