Chichester Festival Theatre is on a roll with its sparkling debut of the classic Broadway hit musical Guys and Dolls.
There was a full house last night for this award-winning show about New York gamblers and their wise-cracking dames.
Based on a fable created by Big Apple writer Damon Runyon, it’s astonishing to think that CFT has never staged it before.
But there’s no doubt that the theatre has one eye on a West End transfer in line with its other recent musical successes like Singin’ In The Rain, Sweeney Todd, and Kiss Me, Kate.
This is a big brash technicolour musical with the wow factor. Right from the opening number, the witty Fugue For Tinhorns, the quality and sheer entertainment shines through.
What’s more it’s such splendid fun thanks to the sensational Sophie Thompson who captures everyone’s hearts as dancer Miss Adelaide, the perpetual fiancee to gambler Nathan Detroit.
Poor Adelaide. She’s waited 14 years for Nathan (the ever reliable Peter Polycarpou in cracking form) to pop the question.
She’s got so desperate that she’s invented a whole new life for herself and suffers a psychosomatic cold.
Guys and Dolls, set in “Noo York” has, as its romantic hero, the bold, charming and completely disarming Sky Masterson, an inveterate gambler and committed bachelor…
Until he is bet $1,000 that he can’t persuade strait-laced missionary Sarah Brown to go on a jaunt to Cuba.
What’s a gambler to do but try and win the bet? Unfortunately he falls in love with the chaste Miss Brown and it’s an odds-on favourite that he will win the girl.
The casting is spot on. Giving Polycarpou and Thompson the comedy subplot is inspired. He is in familiar territory while she milks the audience sympathy for all its worth in a tremendously funny and heartfelt performance.
Jamie Parker, a former History Boy and last seen at Chichester in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, makes a commanding Masterson who looks right at home in the pinstripe suit and Fedora.
He has a fine singing voice, with traces of Sinatra’s easy-going style (particularly with his big number Luck Be A Lady) and has matured nicely into a confident leading man.
Clare Foster’s Sarah is the epitome of wholesome (until she has a few cocktails inside her).
There is also great support from a large cast. Harry Morrison and Ian Hughes as Detroit’s sidekicks Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet make a smashing double act.
Nick Wilton’s hoodlum, Harry the Horse, is a gravel-voiced Danny De Vito type while Nic Greenshields’ out-of-town gangster, Big Jule is colossally tall and pantomime intimidating.
Director Gordon Greenberg has come up with a winning musical – although it’s hard to go wrong with numbers like Take Back Your Mink, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat and Marry The Man Today.
Its choreographer Carlos Acosta’s first crack at a Chichester musical and he’s comes up with a winning hand.
Acosta has put together an ace group of dancers who bring the big production numbers alive.
Guys and Dolls is fun and beautifully staged. Another triumph from one of Britain’s top regional theatres.