Guys and Dolls (Tour) – Musical Theatre Review

‘Guys and Dolls’ seems fully implanted in our theatrical collective conscious – ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’, ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘A Bushel and a Peck’ are familiar even if you’re no musical theatre fan. This is perhaps in large part to the hugely successful 1955 film adaptation starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. (Or possibly that Simpsons episode where Mark Hamill makes an appearance as a Jedi Nathan Detroit – “Guys and Dolls! We’re just a bunch of crazy Guys and Dolls! Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!”) So it’s no surprise that most revivals do relatively well commercially, and this production is no exception; the same production is currently running in London simultaneously to the tour.

We follow the trials and tribulations of Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield), the organiser of a floating crap game – illegal in the Prohibition Era. He’s trying to find a spot for his game, whilst the police department ‘put the heat on’ and his fiancée of fourteen years Miss Adelaide (Louise Dearman) does the same, urging Nathan to finally marry her. Into his life saunters an old acquaintance, notorious gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman). Nathan bets Sky $1,000 he will be unable to take any girl of his choosing on a date to Havana. Sky, known for taking many an outlandish bet, accepts, and Nathan chooses Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne), a sister from the Save-A-Soul Mission. Hardly a ‘sure-thing’. The story unfolds as expected, but is a fun romp through some cleverly integrated numbers and classic gangster slang.

Maxwell Caulfield charmingly plays Detroit, the rogue you love to love and brings much-needed balance to the central foursome. The wonderful Louise Dearman, proves why she is the darling of the musical theatre set in a gloriously funny interpretation of his fiancée, Miss Adelaide. In particular, her Hot Box nightclub sets were stand outs for me, especially ‘Take Back Your Mink’ which is just the right side of cheeky burlesque for a ‘family’ musical! Indeed, it is almost a relief when the ‘Dolls’ show up – there’s so much mumble-y masculine posturing going on prior to this it’s a breath of fresh femininity when Miss Adelaide sniffs and sneezes her way through ‘Adelaide’s Lament’.

Richard Fleeshman cuts a dashing figure as the aloof Sky Masterson, and his chemistry with Anna O’Byrne’s Sarah Brown is electrifying. Their first kiss is furiously passionate, and as we watch their romance blossom it’s hard not to be rooting for these two. Fleeshman’s voice sounds beautifully round and full in ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and the harmonies between both in ‘I’ll Know’ are simply gorgeous. O’Byrne is a delight too and it’s great fun to watch her character flourish throughout the show.

Despite all this, the first act seems ponderously slow. There are some nice moments, but they all seem a long time coming. I doubt this is a fault with this particular production but the layout of the original musical. Originally adapted from several short stories, perhaps there is just too much to fit in? It’s almost as if Act One becomes one huge long set up for all the explosive numbers in Act Two. But what numbers they are! Nicely-Nicely (played with such adorable presence by the brilliant Jack Edwards) gives us an absolutely foot-stomping ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’ and it is probably the best number of the night. The choreography from Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta was exceptional, both here and throughout. The Havana number is cheeky, sexy and sassy, and the crap game choreography prior to ‘Luck Be a Lady’ is all high jumps and low rolls of the dice. All very tight and very clever.

The set is fairly elegant and functional, Broadway lights picking out sections of fifties advertising, whilst simultaneously echoing the famous New York skyline, but as can often be the case at the cavernous Milton Keynes Theatre, perhaps a little sparse? The lighting design from the brilliant Tim Mitchell works exceptionally well, particularly during the central crap game.

To be fair, this is a musical that seems somewhat dated in both its story and presentation of the masculine and feminine, so this production works best when it delves into satire. Nicely-Nicely and his pal Benny Southstreet (Mark Sangster) provide the audience with a fair few winks and nods when some of the rustier dialogue is dragged into this decade. The ensemble too seem to have lots of fun ‘playing up’ their perceived gender roles, from rakish sailor to prim princess. It’s all a bit of a caricature, and surprisingly seems to work. Ensemble member Jamal Crawford in particular was thrillingly engaging throughout providing me with many of my laughs.

Although dated, and at times a turgid trudge through Act One, no one can fault the ‘big’ numbers here, and this production would certainly be an entertaining evening out. What a bunch of crazy Guys and Dolls (Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!)

Guys and Dolls
Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
Tues 14th June – Sat 18th June 2016

Credits

Cast

Louise Dearman - Miss Adelaide
Maxwell Caulfield - Nathan Detroit
Richard Fleeshman - Sky Masterson
Anna O’Byrne - Sarah Brown
Jack Edwards – Nicely-Nicely Johnson
Mark Sangster - Benny Southstreet
Peter Harding - Arvide Abernathy
Cameron Johnson - Big Jule
Craig Pinder - Harry The Horse & Joey Biltmore
Anthony McGill - Lieutenant Brannigan
Melanie Marshall - General Cartwright
Christopher Howell - Rusty Charlie
Ruthie Stephens - Ensemble (Mimi)
Lucy Ashenden - Ensemble
Hannah Cauchi - Ensemble
Chloe Chambers - Ensemble
Danielle Stephen - Ensemble (Diva)
Bethany Linsdell - Ensemble (Agatha)
Eamonn Cox - Ensemble
Jamal Crawford - Ensemble
Ross Lee Fowkes - Ensemble
Jonny Godbold - Ensemble
Abigayle Honeywill - Ensemble
Kiel Payton - Ensemble
Matthew Whennell-Clark - Ensemble
Aron Wild – Ensemble

Crew
Gordon Greenberg - Director
Peter McKintosh - Designer
Carlos Acosta - Choreographer
Andrew Wright - Choreographer
Gareth Valentine - Musical Supervisor, Musical Director & Dance Arrangements
Larry Blank - Orchestrator
Tim Mitchell - Lighting Designer
Paul Groothuis - Sound Designer

© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Tuesday 14th June, 2016.

Author's review: 
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