Theatre review: Guys and Dolls

Date Posted: 19/04/2016

Louise Joy gets a taster of 1950s New York during a recent visit to the West End.

From the moment Guys & Dolls begins, there’s no denying it’s a 1950s musical. Glowing vintage-style signs beam out from the set and the first characters you see are dressed in colour-popping 1950s clothing like full circle skirts and trilbies.

You don’t have to wait long to realise the story is set in New York, either. The first characters you meet – Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet and Arvide Abernathy – have thick Big Apple accents that set the scene for the story that’s about to unfold.

The main plot of the show is one that’s been copied a thousand times in books and movies since Guys and Dolls was created – guy takes a bet that he can win over girl, girl is cautious until they both fall for each other and then, for a short while, we wonder what the outcome will be, if and when the girl ever finds out the truth.

In this case, it’s the charismatic Sky Masterson who makes the bet that he can win over the timid Sarah character. But you don’t get far into the show before you realise that Sky’s affections aren’t only for show.

Oliver Tompsett as Sky Masterson is charismatic and charming and managed to bring his character to life well. He gave his version of Sky his own mannerisms, such as hand clapping and finger clicking, which he carried right through the production without fail.

Siubhan Harrison played Sarah Brown, a quiet character who came into her own around Sky - and their onstage chemistry couldn’t have been more clear.

Miss Adelaide, meanwhile, left me laughing throughout with her brutally honest and witty take on love. In her sub plotline, she’s been holding out for years hoping that Nathan Detroit will propose to her, and she makes the audience feel suitably sorry for her.

Despite his flaws, Nathan Detroit is also a loveable and humorous character, showing us that no one is perfect.

The show was upbeat and a few scenes stood out especially. Perhaps my favourite was the scene in the Havana nightclub, where Sarah knocks back drink after drink without realising they’re alcoholic.

I truly saw her come out of her shell here and let down her guard around Sky. It’s a flurry of action with lots to laugh at.

I particularly enjoyed one of the last upbeat scores from the show – Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, which featured nearly all of the cast. Musically, this is a very strong show.

The audience enjoyed it so much that, by the end, we were clapping and cheering for so long that the actor who played Nicely-Nicely Johnson came out of character, cracking an amused smile at the smiling faces before him.

All in all, Guys and Dolls was an enjoyable show and I can see why it has endured the test of time and made it back to the West End.

Guys and Dolls is booking at the Phoenix theatre until October. For more information visit www.guysanddollsthemusical.co.uk

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