★★★ | Guys And Dolls
In an attempt to gather enough money to organise an illegal craps game, racketeer Nathan Detroit enters into a wager with gambler Sky Masterton that he can’t convince a girl to accompany him on a gambling trip to Havana. The catch? The girl in question is Sarah Brown, a religious and upstanding member of the Salvation Army, whose only interest in men like Masterton is in trying to convince them to leave behind their life of sin and gambling. So whilst Nathan Detroit does everything he can to avoid marrying his long suffering fiancé Ms Adelaide, Sky Masterton unexpectedly falls in love with the Sarah, as he tries to win the bet.Photo credit Johan Persson
Featuring the songs Luck Be a Lady, I’ve Never Been In Love Before and Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat, Guys and Dolls is a classic musical comedy which has all of the elements you would expect from such a traditional show – a will they/won’t they love story, some dazzling set pieces, great characters, a proper narrative and musical numbers which progress the story. This tour, direct from the West End, brings with it a superbly designed set by Peter McKintosh, which allows for the story to be told simply, before exploding with dance routines and some superbly choreographed big production numbers which are an absolute delight. The contrast in presentation enhances the wow factor and keeps the whole thing moving along nicely.
Richard Fleeshman (Coronation Street) stars as Sky Masterton with Maxwell Caulfield (Emmerdale, Casualty) as Nathan Detroit, but it is Louise Dearman who steals the scenes and the show as Miss Adelaide, coming across with just a touch of Bette Middler to bring her character to life. The supporting cast of zoot suited gangsters and chorus girls all brought a level of spectacular vivaciousness to the piece and the whole thing had an air of quality and style about it, freshening up the 70 year old show without losing what gives it its traditional appeal.
The only place where the production was let down was in the sound mix, with the volume of the actors being so low during the speaking parts, it was very difficult to hear, meaning many of the comedic elements and a lot of the script were lost on the audience. Equally, as great as the live orchestra was, the volume was just far too loud and completely drowned out the vocals in musical numbers, making the lyrics disappointingly indecipherable. This was such a shame, as other than that, the show has so much going for it. However, this is a technical issue which is easily rectified and one which may well have been isolated to that one performance.
This highly enjoyable version of Guys and Dolls has an awful lot going for it, and is a well put together, well-staged version of a great show, which puts a fresh spin on a crowd pleasing classic without watering down the original’s appeal.
Guys and Dolls is currently playing at Sheffield Theatres until 23rd April 2016 (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) before continuing on its national tour until 30th July 2016. For details visit the show’s website at www.guysanddollsthemusical.co.uk.