Guys and Dolls review

Siubhan Harrison & Jamie Parker in Guys & Dolls. Images Paul Coltas.
Siubhan Harrison & Jamie Parker in Guys and Dolls. Images Paul Coltas.

It was odds-on favourite that the vintage gambling musical, Guys and Dolls, would be a box office smash in London’s West End.

It’s just opened at the Savoy Theatre and has hit the jackpot. Audiences just can’t get enough of this glitzy Broadway-style (and Broadway set) show.

With an impeccable cast (that features the future Harry Potter, Jamie Parker, as swaggering gambler Sky Masterson) and a hit Frank Loesser score, plus the cachet of coming from the regional powerhouse of musical theatre, Chichester, this is one show you can bet on for pure entertainment.

Show-stopping musical numbers will have you tapping your feet and lively performances from the entire ensemble makes Guys and Dolls truly unmissable. Hey, I’m not rocking the boat and betting against my original Chichester review!

Gavin Spokes (Nicely Nicely Johnson) and the cast of Guys and Dolls - photo by Paul Coltas

It’s 18 months since Guys and Dolls left West Sussex and a lot has changed. The subtlety and finesse has been knocked out of the production and in its place is a big, bold and brash, fun-loving show that’s tailor-made for West End audiences.

Jamie Parker has made Sky Masterson his own and he’s developed a fine singing voice to go with that winning smile and charming personality.

But there are two big surprises for me in the show. The first is casting David Haig as craps dealer Nathan Detroit. Who knew he was a song and dance man?

Cards on the table – he’s still David Haig but now with a Noo York accent – yet he holds his own in a supremely accomplished cast.

It’s refreshing to see him in a comedy role. Detroit’s whole life is organising floating craps games for the high rollers – and his day job is trying to avoid walking his fiancee of 14 years, dancer Miss Adelaide, up the aisle.

And the second is seeing a supporting character actor come up on the inside rails to steal the show from the big names.

Gavin Spokes is never likely to be given romantic leading roles but the solidly built actor, who took over the lead from James Cordon in the National Theatre’s One Man Two Guvnors, is the West End’s secret weapon and should be on every casting director’s speed-dial.

Playing gambling sidekick Nicely Nicely Johnson is almost typecasting (though not the gambling, obviously). His irrepressible cheery face, energy and dazzling personality are matched by one of the most powerful singing voices on the London stage, a natural flair for comedy, and a clown’s ability to turn his hand to any role.

In Guys and Dolls he wins the pot by heading some of the show’s greatest songs – the clever Fugue for Tinhorns, Guys and Dolls and the big Act II showstopper, Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.

Guys and Dolls is based on the stories of writer Damon Runyon and it’s set in that den of debauchery, Broadway, where “Guys” come out at night to roll the dice and the only “Dolls” they meet are wise-cracking broads who wait tables or dance in the salons.

The whole of life is there in this musical fable – including the Save-A-Soul Mission where do-gooder Miss Sarah Brown works to save sinners from sin.

Down-at-luck Detroit bets Masterson that he can’t pull the virginal Sarah (beautifully played by Siubhan Harrison) and before you know it the inveterate gambler is falling for his mark.

Sophie Thompson (Miss Adelaide) and the cast of Guys and Dolls - photo by Paul Coltas

Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright’s thrilling choreography harks back to the golden era of musicals and the large cast, featuring some of the West End’s finest performers, make the most of it.

Some original cast members have come to London with the show including Sophie Thompson as the bride-in-waiting, Miss Adelaide whose comedy voice is now more pronounced as is her exuberant performance.

Nic Greenshields, as Big Jule, makes a sizeable contribution as the out of town mobster looking to take the pot and Ian Hughes delivers a winning double act with Spokes as Benny Southstreet.

A faultless musical and one which will be delighting audiences wherever it goes. Yes folks, it was always a sure fire bet that a UK tour was on the cards and dates are below. Don’t miss it.

Guys and Dolls is booking at Savoy Theatre until March 12.

2016 Tour Dates

March 16-19, Liverpool Empire
March 22-April 2, Theatre Royal, Newcastle
April 5-9, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
April 12-16, The Edinburgh Playhouse
April 19-23, Lyceum, Sheffield
April 26-30, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin
May 3-7, Theatre Royal, Norwich
May 17-21, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
May 24-28, Grand Theatre, Leeds
May 31-June 4, Theatre Royal, Plymouth
June 7-11, King’s Theatre, Glasgow
June 14-18, Milton Keynes Theatre
June 21-25, Theatre Royal, Nottingham
June 28-July 2, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
July 5-9, New Theatre, Cardiff
July 12-16, Bristol Hippodrome
July 19-23, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
July 26-30, New Victoria Theatre, Woking.

Review Rating
  • Guys and Dolls
5

Summary

The gambling musical fable, Guys and Dolls, is a sure fire West End hit with thrilling choreography, winning songs and dazzling performances from a supremely talented ensemble.

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