guys and dolls top

Jamie Parker as Sky Masterson and, below, Sophie Thompson as Miss Adelaide. Pictures: Johan Persson

Guys and Dolls

The New Alexandra Theatre

*****

IF you leave the Alex without a smile on your face, a song on your lips and a spring in your step after seeing this wonderful show . . . then someone really should check your pulse.

This is the best musical of the year by several Damon Runyon Broadway blocks - sheer delight and everything you could ever want from a musical comedy, and then some.

It has a script, by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, with a story to tell, and it tells it full of fun and easy, unforced humour, with some great lines from the bursting-with-life characters that inhabit Runyon’s glorious invented after-hours world. A world of gamblers shooting craps and playing the horses, showgirls and singers in his wonderful underworld Broadway of guys and dolls.

There is innocent romance, the dance numbers are pure class and the music by Frank Loesser is simply magic. There is nothing dull or stuck in just to fill here, the music is alive anguys and dollsd all part of the story – and while we are on about music what a brass section in the superb 14 piece orchestra under musical director Gareth Valentine.

That is big for a touring show and it shows with a full, rounded sound to complement an outstanding show.

The dance numbers are slick, polished and add to every scene.

David Haig is a wonderful Nathan Detroit desperately trying to find the money to keep his illegal enterprise, the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York, still floating. Floating being moving around rather than chugging up and down the East River, incidentally.

He is also trying desperately to avoid getting married to his doll of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, having made the mistake, according to Benny Southstreet with no sense of humour, of falling in love with his fiancée.

Sophie Thompson gives us a dumb, but not all the time, showgirl in dizzy Miss Adelaide who always finds ways to forgive Detroit, probably for things he has probably not even done yet. With a hint of Brooklyn twang Thompson is funny, endearing and has a pleasing voice with some wonderfully funny numbers such as Aledaide’s Lament.

The other love interest is straight-laced, God-fearing missionary Sergeant Sarah Brown in the shape of Siubhan Harrison who presents the two sides of Sgt Brown quite beautifully and has a lovely voice to boot.

And into her life comes Sky Masterson, big-time, high-roller ready to bet on anything, played with easy charm to spare by Jamie Parker. His duet with Harrison on I’ve never been in love before is among the highlights. He also gives us one of the show stoppers in Luck be a Lady. And that is all you need to know about the plot – just sit back and enjoy.

The other big number comes from Nicely Nicely Johnson, played with a wonderful look of permanent bewilderment by Gavin Spokes who leads pretty well the entire cast in a tub thumping, soul rousing Sit down you’re rocking the boat.

Around the main characters we have Benny Southstreet, full of one liners that make sense to him, played by Ian Hughes. The far from easy opening number, Fugue for Tinhorns, sets the tone with three gamblers studying racing form and Niceley Nicely sings about his horse Paul Revere, Benny singing of his selection Valentine and and Rusty Charlie, played by Carl Patrick, singing about his horse Epitaph, all at the same time. Fun, slick and clever which just about describes the whole show..

We meet the gamblers of New York, in a sewer as it happens, including the giant and sinister, in a friendly sort of way, Big Jule played by Nic Greenshields and Harry the Horse played by Cornelius Clarke.

And on the other side of the law Sarah’s grandfather, Arvide Abernathy, played by Neil McCaul, weighs in with the lovely More I cannot wish you as he tries to convince his granddaughter that Sky is inherently good – but we all knew that didn’t we, while trying unsuccessfully, to keep everyone in line we have William Oxborrow as Lt Branningan of NYPD.

Choreography by ballet superstar Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright is just captivating, slick and imaginative, Peter McKintosh’s design is clever and just right for every scene, cleverly lit by Tim Mitchell, and if you ever wanted to know what a Broadway show would look like, New York director Gordon Greenberg is showing you with a production that oozes class from curtain up to curtain call, fast paced with never a dull or wasted moment.

It’s a big cast, 26, big orchestra and a big, larger than life show, as close to perfection in musical comedy as you are likely to get. Simply magnificent entertainemnt.

Every show has its faults though, and, sadly, this one is no exception. It all ended too soon. I would have been happy for it to go on and on well into Sky, Nathan and Nicely’s time of day. It is that good and one of the few shows you can happily say is unmissable. The dice keep rolling until Saturday, 5 December.

Roger Clarke

25-11-15

Guys and Dolls moves to the West End on 10 December for a four month run to 12 March, 2016 and runs at Wolverhampton Grand from 19-23 July, 2016.

Another point of view - Second review

Contents page Alex Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre