Guys and Dolls
a Chichester Festival Theatre Production
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Directed by Gordon Greenberg
Reviewer: Sam Chipman
Guys and Dolls is a Broadway classic, a staple of musical theatre: and for a reason. It is bold, bright, witty and lays claim to being one of the best all round musicals ever written. Chichester Festival Theatre’s production was highly acclaimed during its run, subsequently guaranteeing itself a UK tour, and a transfer to London’s Savoy Theatre in December for a strictly limited 13-week run.
This latest revival is certainly flamboyant thanks to the design by Peter McKintosh. The brightly coloured suits and costumes, paired with Broadway style advertisement boards illuminating the whole of the back of the stage certainly ensure that the production is awash with colour.
The Direction by Gordon Greenberg brings a few new touches to the jokes and punch lines which helps keep the book fresh: most pleasing for someone who knows the script pretty much inside out. Carlos Acosta, making his debut in commercial theatre, has drilled his dancers well. His routines are high energy, sharp at all times and bring the required flavour to each dance number. His Cuban routine is one of the highlights of the evening, a storytelling dance the way it should be done.
Jamie Parker is the star of the evening. His acting is of a different class: he brings such style and smoothness to the role. And boy can he can sing – his Sinatra sounding baritone really comes into its own when he gives it air time. His chemistry with Siubhan Harrison, the key narrative often lost behind the famous showstopping numbers, really contributes to the success of the production. Harrison, as Sarah Brown, has clear and crisp vocals. She ensures that there is more to Sarah than the wet drip that is often portrayed, and she really comes into her own in the second act.
David Haig, a seasoned veteran, brings wit and charisma to the role of Nathan Detroit. Sophie Thompson, as Miss Adelaide, has her comedic timing down to a tee. Gavin Spokes and Ian Hughes are a great duo as Nicely and Benny – the title number is a treat. The rest of the cast and ensemble must also be mentioned: the help bring the energy and life the show requires to succeed. The famous Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat has really spark and old-school musical theatre charm to it and all the cast play their part in its success.
You’d be unwise to take a betting tip from Nathan Detroit, but his horse has certainly come in if he put money on this production. Bold, dazzling and witty, long may Guys and Dolls live on – an evening of near unmatchable entertainment.
Runs until 5th December 2015 at New Alexandra Theatre, then touring until 30th July 2016