VERY rarely do a creative team hit all the right notes, yet after greatly applauded runs of ‘Gyspy’, ‘Barnum’ and ‘Mack and Mabel’ to name a few, Chichester Festival can definitely add ‘Guys and Dolls’ to their list of high appraised repertoire.
The quick-paced, up-tempo show got off to an ‘in your face’ spectacular opening, one that definitely made you want to get out your seat and be part of, the lighting is dazzling (more on that later) and the set is relatively minimal but equally effective – this is normally the case with Savoy Theatre Productions as the space is so intimate.
Seeing Guys and Dolls really reminded me of why I love seeing live theatre, and why I love working in theatre, firstly the choreography, by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright (Wright also choreographed the recently opened ‘Miss Henderson Presents’) is so powerful, dynamic, intricate and of course, sparkling.
Special mention has to go to the male Ensemble (too many to name individually) who all stood out during the well-rehearsed, unified and perfectly executed choreographed scenes. The ensemble as a whole really helped the show run smoothly and drove the narrative along with vivacious leaping, high jumping and who all swept the stage with wads of energy and pizzazz.
As mentioned earlier, the lighting really helps set this piece alive and is done with such precision and flair; it creates a greater wow factor as an audience member. It’s underlined how much talent Tim Mitchell (Anything Goes, The Sound of Music) the lighting designer – has put into this glittering work, the lighting simply is on point throughout.
The original West End debut of Guys and Dolls happened at the London Coliseum in 1953 and 2 years later became a feature length film starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando – 50 years on and Jamie Parker (Sky Masterson) musters up all the smooth tones he has to portray a 2016 version of that old Frank magic, something he does perfectly. Siubhan Harrison (Sarah Brown) is a star in the making (I saw her take the lead once again in Tim Rice’s ‘From Here to Eternity’, another Sinatra classic) and she again, does not disappoint with her depth of character and pitch perfect voice.
Star casting can sometimes make for a dull performance, but this is a perfect example of when star casting is used effectively for the good of the show. Sophie Thompson (Harry Potter, Four Weddings and a Funeral and so on) plays the comical Miss Adelaide faultlessly; she is the Miss Adelaide I’ve always wanted to see on stage. David Haigh (Yes, Prime Minister, The Thin Blue Line) is equally as faultless.
I’m not overly easy to impress (see my other reviews) but Guys and Dolls is a sharp, dazzling spectacle not to be missed. If you can’t get tickets to see the West End production, definitely try and catch the touring production travelling across the UK and Dublin from March – July 2016.
Review by Ben Wainwright
Guys and Dolls
Strand, London, WC2R 0ET
Booking Until: 12th March 2016
Guys and Dolls from 19th March 2016