GUYS AND DOLLS Awarded 4**** Stars

2017We have tickets from £24.50 click here to find out how to get them..

Following a sell-out run at the Savoy, this Chichester Festival hit deservedly gets its second West End transfer to the Phoenix Theatre.

Subtitled “A Musical Fable of Broadway”, the production is based on characters from a collection of stories by Alfred Damon Runyon called ‘Guys and Dolls’. The show’s plot is particularly derived from the short tale ‘The Idyll of Sarah Brown’. Runyon was an American sports commentator and crime reporter whose fiction celebrated the dark underbelly of Broadway, and grew out of the Prohibition era of the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s one of those inimitable musicals where the book adaptation by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, and the score and lyrics by Frank Loesser are a perfect theatrical collaboration. Brimming with gender stereotypes, Guys and Dolls has a heteronormative quaintness that reflects its age. The guys are macho rogues, and the dolls will tolerate any nonsense from their men as long they get married.

The musical follows the cons and gamblers who live on the Great White Way, a section of Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. Compulsive gambler Nathan Detroit is running out of options to find a venue for his illegal crap game. Detroit bets Sky Masterson, another crapshooter, that he can’t take Salvation Army girl Sarah Brown to Cuba with him for the night. Masterson is a charmer and despite some resistance from pious Brown he manages to get her to Havana. At the same time Detroit is having trouble with his own girlfriend Miss Adelaide, who keeps pestering him to marry her after 14 years of engagement.

There are some cast changes since its run at the Savoy. Multiple Olivier Award-winning actress Samantha Spiro comically twangs the emotional hearts-strings as Miss Adelaide, and is well partnered with Richard Kind as commitment-phobe Nathan. Oliver Tompsett is perfectly cast as devilish sweet-talker Sky Masterson, and from the original cast, Gavin Spokes stands out as Nicely Nicely Johnson, who stops the show with the lively number ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat’. The choreography by Andrew Wright and Cuban Ballet star Carlos Acosta is breathtaking but dangerously threatens to upstage the pivotal relationship turning point scene in Havana, where soul-saving Brown finally lets down her hair with Masterson. Peter McKintosh’s technicolour backdrop of bright flashing 50’s American logos, also adapts well as a set for the gambling sewer scene – a metaphor for the perceived moral malaise of the time. Gareth Valentine’s vibrant musical direction does full justice to the Loesser numbers that have made this musical so enduring.

Grab tickets for this superior and fresh revival while you can.

Tickets from £24.50 – Tel: 0844 871 7627. Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0JP. Booking until 30th October 2016.

Review by Oliver Valentine.

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