It’s been a few years since I last saw Guys & Dolls and after failing to get to Chichester in 2014 to see this production due to injury, I’m pleased it has transferred to the Savoy for a West End run.
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable evening’s entertainment, with Gordon Greenberg’s production delivering on colour, sparkle and fun. It’s a relatively simple story – two gamblers who are scared of settling down, each ultimately realise every Guy needs a Doll.
Coming to London with the production are two of the main Chichester leads – Sophie Thompson as Miss Adelaide and Jamie Parker as Sky Masterson. I admit my main reason for seeing this show was Mr. Parker, who has become a favourite stage actor of mine over recent years, able to play straight plays, Shakespeare and musicals. He is great as Sky – the suave, sexy, gambler, with a twinkle in his eye and a sharp suit. I understand why Miss Sarah would fall for him! He also has a fantastic voice, essential for any lead in a musical. It’s a shame this will also be his last role for a while, as his next engagement is playing Harry Potter in the new stage play, which I imagine will keep him occupied for some time.
Sophie Thompson is wonderful as Miss Adelaide. I admit the initial casting had surprised me as, I’m ashamed to admit, I imagined someone younger would always play the role of the woman who dances at the Hot Box and dreams of one day marrying Nathan Detroit (they have been engaged for 14 years after all). However Ms. Thompson brings so much personality to the role that she steals every scene. Not to mention her voice, with songs such as Sue Me, being both vocally powerful as well as emotional. It’s lovely to see another strong woman commanding the Savoy stage following Imelda’s powerhouse performance in Gypsy.
Completing these two pairs is Daniel Haig as Nathan Detroit and Siubhan Harrison as Sarah Brown. David Haig grew on me as the production went along, although I thought he was lacking in the sparkle that Thompson and Parker have. Finally Siubhan Harrison plays Sarah, the girl who steals Sky’s heart. She was good, but I felt she was only at her best in scenes with Jamie Parker, as the two worked well together. In other scenes I found her a bit forgettable.
The first half seemed quite slow in pace and it took me a while to be engaged by the show itself. I’d also forgotten that the memorable songs from this musical come in the second half, namely Luck Be A Lady and Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat. The latter is superb, delivered with power, glitz, passion and joy by the cast, but particularly Gavin Spokes’s Mr Nicely Nicely Johnson, who makes this number one to remember.
The set design by is full of glitz and glamour and the choreography by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright is very good (I loved a scene in the sewer where the men formed a human set of stairs for another to run up).
Is this the greatest musical I’ve ever seen? No, it isn’t, but it provides fun, laughter and a great night’s entertainment, which is the ideal tonic for anyone suffering from the January blues.
Guys & Dolls continues its run at the Savoy Theatre until 12th March 2016, before embarking on a UK tour. Running time: 2 hours and 40 mins (including a 20 minute interval). For further information visit its website.