Another musical comes into the West End via the Chichester Festival, following the phenomenally successful ‘Gypsy’: this time Frank Loesser’s saga of New York gamblers and mission dolls, ‘Guys and Dolls’ which was first presented on the stage in 1950, with its inspiration from the stories of Damon Runyon, and characters like Harry the Horse, Society Max, and Liver Lips Louie.
Those of you familiar with the film version of 1955 might be confused at some score changes here – Miss Adelaide’s original first act number ‘A Bushel and a Peck’; Sky’s solo ‘My Time of Day’ which leads into his duet with Sarah, ‘I’ve Never Been In Love Before’ (replacing ‘A Woman in Love’, which is briefly heard as a background tune); Arveit’s solo ‘More I Cannot Wish You’ (with more than a hint of Harry Lauder in this version); and towards the end of act two, Adelaide and Sarah’s duet ‘Marry The Man Today’ (a fun song, but one I have always felt never belonged with the rest of the show). You may also miss the song ‘Adelaide’ which was created to give Nathan Detroit a solo number in the film.
However, the score is sound and well-performed throughout – by the four leads (Jamie Parker as Sky Masterson, a real find who gives the gambler a real soft heart beyond the bravado – he’s no Brando, but he is different, and very good; Sophie Thompson as a terrific Miss Adelaide, all faded pizazz at the Hot Box and distraught love with the man who still hasn’t married her after fourteen years; David Haig as Nathan Detroit, who dispels memories of Sinatra with his genuinely seedy violet-suited crap game; and Siubhan Harrison as Sarah Brown, the Mission sergeant who gets tipsy and finds herself and her true love) and supporting players alike.
This is a bright, brash and fun show, which highlights some of the rough edges (what do the Hot Box girls really do for their male clientele?) as well as showcasing some seriously talented performances from people who may otherwise not find musical leads – Ian Hughes as Benny Southstreet, for example, or Gavin Spokes who rightly brought the house down with act two’s knockout ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’ (which included some scat singing for General Cartwright, played at the show we saw by understudy Genevieve Nicole).
I must also mention Peter McKintosh’s set design, Tim Mitchell’s clever lighting, and Carlos Acosta’s choreography. Catch this in its brief London stop or on the continuation of its tour if you can.